MIAMI (Billboard) – Leave it to Shakira to defy all the rules.
Typically, a Latin act with an album in English will promote it to English-speaking and Latin fans. For Spanish-language albums, promotion is concentrated on the act’s Latin fan base, wherever it may be.
But not Shakira.
Her upcoming “Fijacion Oral, Volumen 1,” due June 7 on Epic Records, is her first studio album in nearly four years. It is an all-Spanish album whose first single, “La Tortura,” had its premiere on MTV — the first time the music cable network added a Spanish-only video, with no English counterpart.
MTV also aired a “Making the Video” program in Spanish with subtitles during prime time — another first.
“Fijacion Oral,” the follow-up to Shakira’s multiplatinum English-language debut, “Laundry Service,” is the first half of a two-part, bilingual project. “Oral Fixation, Part Two,” which is completely in English, will be released this fall, also on Epic. Unlike other releases by crossover acts, the two albums do not have any songs in common.
“The original intent was to make one album, I didn’t know if in English or Spanish,” Shakira says.
When she started to write, the songs flowed in her native Spanish, and also in English. It was a different experience for the Colombian-born Shakira, who wrote “Laundry Service” armed with a bilingual dictionary, when she was just learning how to speak English.
From 60 songs, many of which she wrote with longtime collaborators like Lester Mendez and Luis Fernando Ochoa, Shakira whittled down the list to 10 in each language. She then proposed a stylistically eclectic two-album project.
“I don’t believe very much in the musical unity of albums,” Shakira says. “I don’t think an album needs to have one general concept. I think albums have to be the spontaneous expression of an artist. That’s why I took such a long time to work on these songs. And so many things happened in that time, that the first song I wrote has nothing to do with the last.”
In deciding which album to release first, Shakira also broke ranks since most Latin crossover acts have followed their English breakthroughs with another English-language album.
“Fijacion Oral” is a Latin-minded album. Not only is it in Spanish, but, for the first time in Shakira’s career, it features collaborations, with two quintessentially Latin acts.
One is Gustavo Cerati, an Argentine rocker little known outside Latin America. The other is Spanish pop star Alejandro Sanz, who joins Shakira for “La Tortura” and its video.
Their presence may help Shakira re-enter the Latin marketplace; it has been seven years since her last all-Spanish album.
Still, the bigger challenge is the project’s global scope. Both albums will be released in more than 100 countries — every territory covered by Epic and its distributors.
Marketing and promotion will be distinct in each territory, with Shakira initially visiting Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Spain, England, Germany and possibly Chile in addition to her U.S. promotion.
“Even in countries in Asia, where there is no Spanish market at all, there is potential to sell a Shakira album, whatever it is,” says Helena Verellen, senior marketing director for Epic International.
REDEFINING LATIN POP
Now 28, Shakira was originally signed to Sony Colombia and released two albums there with no impact. Her breakthrough came with the 1996 release “Pies Descalzos,” an album that redefined the scope, sound and image of Latin pop female acts.
With limited promotion in the United States, “Pies” managed to sell nearly half a million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Her follow-up, 1998’s “Donde Estan los Ladrones,” sold close to 900,000 copies in the States. By the time she released “Laundry Service” in 2001, Shakira had sold more than 10 million albums in Latin America alone.
As for “Laundry Service,” it has sold 3.3 million copies in the United States and more than 13 million worldwide, according to Epic. All told, Shakira has sold more than 26 million albums worldwide.
Armed with those numbers, Epic has set aside a year to promote the new project, with varied marketing partnerships around the world encompassing singles from both releases.
In Sweden, for example, mobile phone company 3 is airing a TV spot that invites users to download the “Tortura” video. In South Korea, Epic has a deal with another mobile provider that is using “La Tortura” for a jeans commercial. In Brazil, cyclists will tour the beaches of Rio de Janeiro with Shakira banners and airplanes will circle the sandy shores of Sao Paulo with Shakira announcements.
“La Tortura,” a mix of pop, flamenco and rock, was simultaneously released to radio stations worldwide. The video also premiered simultaneously on Latin and mainstream channels. In the United States, the track is No. 2 on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart and No. 80 on The Billboard Hot 100.
As with other Shakira creations, there is no clear stylistic element or ethnic influence that identifies it as her work. Rather, the voice, the inflection and the lyrics–always clever and well-crafted — make the song purely Shakira’s.
“I don’t like labels, because I’m an artist on a permanent search. If there is any label I like, it is the ‘pop’ label, because it’s a very flexible world,” Shakira says. “I’m afraid of getting married to one sound forever. I want to have Don Juan’s liberty within music, and do what my instincts tell me.”