Shakira Mebarak, or simply Shakira as she is known by her legion of fans, debuts with her first English-speaking album, “Laundry Service,” after ruling over the Latino music markets since 1996.

Americans were first introduced to this part Columbian, part Lebanese singer/songwriter when she performed her international hit “Ojos As” at the first annual Latin Grammys in 2000. After the performance, talk began to spread about this Latin beauty.

MTV had asked Shakira prior to the Latin Grammys to perform a show for MTV Unplugged. Soon after, the CD from that performance was released. Just before the release of “Laundry Service,” MTV aired the broadcast of Shakira’s Unplugged performance.

Finally, the album is here and lives up to the hype it has drawn. “Laundry Service” begins with the track “Objection (Tango),” a fast-paced song with a strong Latin American tone.

Following “Objection” is the first of three ballads, “Underneath Your Clothes.” Shakira’s voice shines through with this song ? however, she sounds like a cross between Alanis Morrisette and No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani.

The album’s first single comes as the third track for “Laundry Service.” “Whenever, Wherever” has a poppy beat, yet the lyrics are difficult to understand. Many may just remember this song because of its sexual music video.

Many of the songs on the album have great beats and catchy words ? that is, if you can understand them.

The remaining two ballads, “The One” and “Fool,” are great songs that, just like “Underneath Your Clothes,” showcase how she became one of the top Latin American artists around the world. Both the lyrics of the songs and the heart with which she sings makes for an incredible combination.

Also included on the album are four Spanish songs. But, much like Enrique Iglesias on his latest release, “Escape,” two of the three are Spanish translations of what appear to be hits from the album. “Suerte,” the translation for “Whenever, Wherever,” and the single “Te Aviso, Te Anuncio (Tango)” is the Spanish version of “Objection.” However, fans that enjoy classic Shakira will enjoy these additions to the CD.

The disappointment of the album comes with the song “Eyes Like Yours.” In this song, Shakira attempts to translate “Ojos As” from her third album, “Dnde Estn Los Ladrones,” into English. Unfortunately, the music does not mix well with the words and the song loses most of the flow that made it so successful ? along with the beautiful Arabian sound it had.

Even if you are not into the pop scene, this CD will be of interest to you. Shakira is not only a pop star, but also a Latin American folk singer.

Incredibly, “Laundry Service” is produced entirely by Shakira herself, with the help of Emilio Estefan Jr. Also, unlike many of her teeny-bopper counterparts, Shakira writes all of the songs for the album, showcasing her talents not only as a singer, but as a songwriter as well.

This CD differs from Britney or N’Sync in that the music is not synthesized ? and neither is her voice. Real musicians play the instruments in the songs and the back-up singers actually sing words, rather than just make noises.

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