Shakira’s new “El Dorado” is the latter, a solid hodgepodge of trendy and classic tracks, mostly in Spanish but with some English included, from a talented music veteran who doesn’t have anything to prove.
Naturally the Colombian singer’s distinctive voice, deployed with seemingly effortless skill, is the not-so-secret weapon, and she’s supported by crisp arrangements that reflect her heritage as well as the current state of pop music.
“El Dorado” kicks off with “Me Enamore” (“I Fell in Love”), already a hit on Billboard’s Latin chart, as Shakira channels her real-life romance with Spanish soccer star Gerard Pique into a playful bouncy pop context infused with electronica. On the flipside, she indulges in fantasy on the duet “Chantaje”(“Blackmail”), also already a hit on Billboard’s Latin chart, as the 40-year-old singer plays cougar to 23-year-old fellow Colombian vocalist Maluma, sensually cooing “pretty boy” at him in a swirl of fashionable reggaeton.
The two don’t recapture their mojo later on a second duet, “Trap,” which is alternately hypnotic and uneventful and abruptly fades out. But Prince Royce is a perfect fit for her in the salsa-flavored percussive delight “D?j? Vu.”
Other singing partners on “El Dorado” don’t match as well with Shakira: Nicky Jam is too strident for her dulcet tone on “Perro Fiel” (“Faithful Dog”), and Carlos Vives isn’t as dexterous as she is on “La Bicicleta” (“The Bicycle”). Plus two versions of “Comme Moi” – in French with Black M and English with Magic! – both strike out.
Shakira’s best partner here is her longtime collaborator Luis Fernando Ochoa, who works her passionate, trembling voice into the grandstanding power ballad “Nada” and constructs a Disney-esque anthem chorus for the vibrant “Amarillo.”
Ultimately “El Dorado,” which is also highlighted by the lulling romantic escape of “Coconut Tree” and the gorgeous piano-based closer “Toneladas,” is dominated by enjoyable songs that fully engage in the moment yet are easily forgotten once they end.