NEW YORK — Shakira has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide, and is probably the biggest star in Latin music today. So when she wants to visit New York, she does it with style.
On Wednesday, the bellydancing beauty shut down part of Times Square to celebrate the release of her new Spanish-language album, Fijación Oral Vol. 1 [translation: Oral Fixation Vol. 1], signing autographs and posing for photos with her legions of devoted (and frequently crying) fans.
Throngs of those admirers — many clutching hand-drawn portraits of their heroine — braved the blazing temperatures and beefy security guards outside Virgin Megastore just to catch a glimpse of the petite performer. Most weren't even allowed inside the store, lacking the necessary "fan pass" to gain entrance (those were limited to the first 400 who purchased Fijación, which for many meant getting in line the night before).
Those who were lucky enough to snag passes faced temperatures nearly as hot inside (Virgin was apparently attempting to replicate the weather in Shakira's native Colombia) and even longer lines, but for most, it didn't seem to matter. They chanted "Sha-ki-ra!" and jumped in place and cried. And when the artist herself did appear — coming down an escalator, decked out in black jeans and a black Bruce Springsteen T-shirt — the screams were deafening and the flashbulbs blinding.
And this is just the beginning. In November, Shakira will release the second volume of her "Fixation" series, an album of all new songs sung entirely in English. Oral Fixation became a two-album set not because of some grandiose plan, but rather because she had simply written so many songs since her last album, Laundry Service, hit in 2001.
"My album coming out in November is entirely in English and is a completely new repertory of songs. They're not translations or anything like that," she said, brushing her curly blond/brown locks from her face. "The idea of making a double project was never planned or premeditated, it just happened. I found myself writing 60 songs and put myself on the mission of selecting my favorite ones, which happened to be 20. And those 20 songs formed this project, Oral Fixation Vol. 1 and 2."
And while the next album is still months away, it'll have to pack quite a punch to surpass this one, which is easily Shakira's most adventurous and all-over-the-place effort to date. While at heart still a classic Latin pop album (read: a whole lot of ballads), it's both loud and soft, and there are also subtler, international details hidden below the surface. And nowhere is that more apparent than on the album's first single, "La Tortura" ["The Torture"], a simmering duet with Alejandro Sanz.
" 'The Torture' is a mix of many different elements. Some influences of reggaeton, and Jamaican dancehall, a little bit of acoustic guitars, a little bit of accordions," Shakira explained. "It's probably my most Latin track, too. It's one of those cocktails I like to put together."
And with that, Shakira's handlers whisked her away — autographs to sign and more journalists to placate — but not before she managed to divulge that the next single off Fijación would be the quiet acoustic ballad "No." The song, with its tiny yet powerful vocal patterns and insistent guitars, seemed somewhat fitting given the day's circumstances: a tiny woman from Colombia shutting down the crossroads of the world.
Even if it was just for one day, it was muy impressive.