Will Shakira become a crossover pop star?
Strong first week sales and a national TV blitz could propel the Latin singer's first English-language album into the American mainstream
With Christmas shopping just around the corner, the music industry is releasing giftwrap-ready albums by its biggest stars: Britney Spears, Creed, Garth Brooks, Kid Rock, Paul McCartney, Jewel, and… Shakira? Epic’s decision to release ”Laundry Service,” the first English-language album from the Colombian pop star, during a month crowded with major acts might seem risky at best. ”The timing is unusual,” admits Billboard charts director Geoff Mayfield. ”Normally, I would advise a record company not to launch a relatively new artist in the fourth quarter.”
But the 24-year-old Grammy winner is already elbowing her way to the front of the pack. Early reports suggest ”Laundry” will sell more than 200,000 copies in its first week, on par with the solid No. 2 debut of Enrique Iglesias’ ”Escape” two weeks ago. Given that Shakira’s last album, Dónde Están Los Ladrones? (Where are the Thieves?), went multi-platinum in the U.S., it’s no surprise that fans familiar with her Spanish language albums are snapping up copies.
But will ”Laundry,” which stretches the boundaries of conventional pop with Andean pan flutes, Middle Eastern rhythms (Shakira is half Lebanese), Brazillian drums, and five Spanish language tracks (including a version of her first single ”Whenever, Wherever”), woo mainstream audiences as well?
Part of the answer will lie in the power of Carson Daly and Co. ”For the first time ever, MTV has programmed the Spanish and English versions of a video [”Whenever, Wherever”],” explains Ceci Kurzman, Epic Records’ VP of Worldwide Marketing. Already the single, ranked at No. 50 on the Billboard Hot 100, has become the second most requested video on ”TRL.”
Though much has been made of Shakira’s precocious songwriting abilities (the child prodigy released her first album at 13, and Nobel prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez has sung her praises), it doesn’t hurt that the dance moves the belly-baring blond shows off in the ”Whenever” video are a close rival to Britney’s slinky slave dance. ”She’s attractive, she moves, she dances, and she really breathes life into this music,” boasts Kurzman. Paul ”Cubby” Bryant, music director of New York’s top 40 radio station Z100, is more direct: ”I think the bottom line is she looks damn good, and that’s all that matters.”