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Single Review: Shakira – Empire

Photo: Jonas Akerlund

‘It’s just how I expected it would be’ my friend told me when I played her ‘Can’t Remember To Forget You’ for the first time. Perhaps in the excitement caused by Shakira being back with a killer tune, I forgot to mention that it wasn’t really that groundbreaking. A safe choice, if you will. And with Rihanna stamped all over it, the comeback was safely going to slot into Top 10’s worldwide too. I hereby tend to my crucial mistake by dedicating half of my complimentary review of the single to the PR team behind Shak. Hows that? Fair and square? Great.

Onto the next one then. ‘Empire’ is the title and that, let’s be honest, is a very good title. It sounds grand and dramatic which is something Shakira hasn’t really done in her career. Rousing or subtle seem to be her two go-to styles but the occasional majestic tune has proven to be surprisingly suited to her quirky vocals – see ‘Did It Again’ and the final chorus of ‘She Wolf’ for evidence. Still, Shakira is a one off. She isn’t going to do the Bastille drums or the Coldplay choruses, everybody knows that. Oh wait, ‘Empire’ has Bastille drums and a Coldplay chorus. I wish there was a button on this keyboard that deleted something I’d already written. 🙁

Bombastic! That is the way to describe ‘Empire’. You might question my choice of the word as Shakira invites you in with a gentle ballad-esque verse but believe me, her double-attack in the big hook and even bigger post-chorus is perfectly juxtaposed to the serene Elton John vibes of the opening. It swells to begin with as if the whole song is a sonic definition of ‘crescendo’ – there is a lot to enjoy with repeated listens too. The warmth of the distorted vocals in the refrain are enormous but still captivating. In true Shakira style, they are slightly kooky and weird too, embodying the real charm of this lady’s music – it has enough to draw you in but delights in making you go ‘eh?’ every now and again. The ‘Lucky That My Breasts Are Small and Humble’ effect, as it is officially known as of now.

I quite like going full circle and in order to do that, I’ll bring it back to my friend who provided the intro to this review. ‘Can’t Remember To Forget You’ was predictable. It was pure Shakira and despite being a real banger from start to finish, it didn’t proclaim any progression or boast any surprises – that is it’s only real downfall. It’s as if Shakira wanted this to happen though – it’s like she planned an easy way to get people’s attention before striking with her strongest hand. ‘Empire’ is up there with some of Shakira’s best songs. It’s addictive and stirring and, as a writer, makes me wish that the youth of today hadn’t killed off the word ‘epic’ because this song couldn’t be described in a better way.

Photo: Jonas Akerlund / via Shakira Gallery
Word: Simon McMurdo

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