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The balance of Shakira's album is forceful, well-conceived pop rock, with occasional worldly flair (such as the engaging Andean flutes on the song Whenever, Wherever). "I knew I could write songs in English," says Shakira. "I just had to get over the fear." In general, she says she finds English to be less accommodating than Espanol. "Spanish syntax is more flexible--I can put a verb before a noun any time I need to. English is more rigid," she says. There is an aspect of her new songwriting language that she finds useful: "The great thing about composing in English is that with three words you can make a more direct statement." As an example, Shakira leans back and lets out a cry: "Go for it!"
The poet Derek Walcott once wrote, "To change your language you must change your life." Translations can change poems (the Aeneid, for example, has an elegant architecture that's hard to rebuild in English), and translations can ruin movies (who wants to see the dubbed version of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?). Shakira is struggling to prove that a person's career can be translated, from one tongue to another, from one country to the next, without changing its essence. After stops in Uruguay, Argentina and the Bahamas, she now resides in Miami, at least for the time being. "I don't know where I really live now," she says. But she has settled on a hair color. She was brunet; now that she's a budding North American star, she's blond. Shakira says her blondification was not a marketing move, merely a whim: "The color of my hair is a completely secondary consideration for me. Latin women are always making these little changes. My first choice was to be a redhead, but the color kept streaking at the beach. So I tried the Marilyn Monroe look."
In true Marilyn fashion, Shakira has become a subject of fascination for Miami-area gossip columns, especially since her recent engagement to Antonio de la Rua, the son of the President of Argentina. Shakira has also become a subject of corporate interest: she's appearing in TV spots for Pepsi. Now that she is blond, represents an American soft drink and has an upper-crust Argentine fiance, will she be able to remain the same hard-driving Colombian rockera? "I plan to keep on being the same artist, with the same musical language, just in a different spoken language this time," says Shakira. "It's all still coming from my real feelings, my real-life experiences." In other words, watch out. Shakira plans to go for it.
--With reporting by Tim Padgett and Mary Sutter/Miami