"Whenever, Wherever," Shakira's 2001 English-language breakthrough, managed to irritate much of the planet's populace, thanks to its moronic hook and singing that seemed to emulate the bleat of a sheep stuck in a barbed-wire fence. Thank goodness Fijación Oral isn't nearly that ba-a-a-a-d. The Spanish half of a planned two-disc onslaught (the English-oriented Oral Fixation arrives later this year) is a mixed bag, but significant portions of it are actually enjoyable.

Shakira's vocal affectations continue to annoy at times; during "La Pared," she occasionally sounds as if she's choking on her own spit. She seems more comfortable crooning in her native tongue, however, and the production, overseen by Rick Rubin, doesn't exhibit the crossover desperation that marred Laundry Service, from which her aforementioned hit sprang. Although "Escondite Inglés," with its new-wave keyboards, is inane, "En Tus Ppilas," "Obtener Un Sí," and "Día de Enero" stand as buoyant, often old-fashioned Latin pop, and "La Tortura," with its sturdy dance beat, avoids torture entirely.

In other words, Fijación Oral doesn't entirely suck. Will wonders never cease?




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