There are three things present in every Shakira album: a view of her cleavage, a shock of blonde hair and her Latin roots in her music and lyrics. Her self-titled latest disc is no exception. Her cleavage shows up on the covers and inside pages of the sleeve and cascades of blonde hair always go with her pretty face. Two upbeat Latin tracks turn up, this time amply complemented by a couple of ska numbers, a pair of alt-rockers and the usual stream of dance-friendly cuts and ballads.
The ska-inflected “Cut Me Deep” and “Nunca Me Acuerdo de Olvidarte” must hold a special place in the Shakira canon. Rather than reference the more recent chart triumphs of No Doubt and their ilk, these two songs recall the sharper, more urgent ska/rock and roll blitz of The English Beat and hardcore punk weirdos The Rezillos.
“23” kickstarts with Stonesy riffs then settles for a lean alt-rock backbeat for the rest of the tune. “Forget You" (featuring Rhianna) opens the album on a neat reggae groove but with two distinctive voices fighting for supremacy, it somehow fails to set sail to uncharted R&B waters.
Thematically, the album’s song cycle is supposedly about the $100-million law suit filed against the singer by an ex-boyfriend in 2012. Happily, any sign of enmity or distress hardly shows up on Shakira’s new recording project. She still exudes maximum fun by the simple act of adding a varied music fare to her usual attractions of cleavage and dumb blonde sass.
New age icon Yanni keeps plugging on in the face of heavy competition in the music-for-relaxation-and-contemplation sub-genre. Ambient electronic music and chill samba have made their own inroads on Yanni’s once pole position and the Greek musician’s latest response is a subtle move to re-stake his claim to the kingdom of Cool.
"Inspirato," the name of Yanni’s new record, means the elevation of the human spirit to a higher level of awareness, feeling and empowerment. The album, a collection of remakes of Yanni’s compositions, does exactly what its title implies. By collaborating with some of the greatest voices of his generation, the Greek composer helps elevate his better known songs to a higher plane of mass appreciation.
All through the 13 tracks that make up "Inspirato," Yanni serves at the background, a kingmaker if you will. His partners respond royally. Placido Domingo brings on the goose bumps with his powerful rendition of “Ode Alla Grecia.” Brit mezzo soprano Katherine Jenkins OBE is an ethereal presence warbling in almost shoegaze fashion in “L’Ombre Dell’Angelo.” American soprano and opera star Lauren Jelencovich lights up “Usignolo” in a sparkling performance.
You don’t need to understand every word to be inspired by this sumptuous bunch. Yanni’s feel-good music and some of world’s most extraordinary voices have conspired to produce an interestingly superior stash of good vibes for all ages.
"The Best of Keane"
It had to happen: the phenomenal success of Coldplay would attract imitators of all stripes. Best of the lot were compatriots Keane who, with solid songwriting built around sturdy piano runs and emo vocals, would actually rule the second division to Coldplay’s reign of Britpop’s top shelf.
This double CD throwback to Keane’s decade-long career reflects a freshman year of bumper yields with the idiosyncratic “Everybody’s Changing” and “Somewhere We Don’t Know.”
Sophomore album still produced solid hits, but the downward spiral started by the third album even though the band seemed bent on shifting to a more rocking mode. A personnel reshuffle by their last album in 2012 failed to revive audience interest.
Critics have pinned them down as “too emo” and “wimpy” since day one and the unfortunate albatross must have stuck deeply enough to quietly but surely strangle a promising calling. Let’s hope there’s a new chapter waiting to happen for these gifted lads.