Pink and Shakira made serious inroads last year for major-label pop tarts trying hard to shake up the system. Pink, of course, decided Y Kant Tori Read wasn't such a bad listen and so toughened up her outré R&B with help from a 4 Non Blonde, of all people. As unexpectedly compelling as "Just Like a Pill" was, though, Shakira's Laundry Service is the greater triumph, introducing the Colombian superstar to American audiences with the idiosyncratic panache of which U.S. crossover attempts are usually leeched. The record succeeds as a red-hot alloy of musical forms (thanks in part to executive producer Emilio Estefan Jr., a shrewd industry insider who's also worked with J.Lo and Ricky Martin), but Shakira presides over the proceedings like a true pop star should, dishing out the same mixture of sass and heart, sex and smarts that Madonna and Janet Jackson once mustered. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and it's unique, too: "Lamps are hanging from the ceiling like a lady to her good manners," she explains on the luminescent "Underneath Your Clothes." The singer arrives at the American Airlines Center on Monday night on her ongoing Tour of the Mongoose, so trust that her commitment to her vision remains intact, American domination or no.
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