Shakira ~ Laundry Service Colombian superstar Shakira's first English-language disc, Laundry Service, carries the pointed credit "Entire Album Produced by Shakira." That might be a signal to U.S. fans who helped two of her previous discs go platinum under the media radar--a sign that this planned breakthrough has more to offer than the input of a score of image makers and outside writers. And it does; even the occasional clunky lyric comes directly from her overflowing heart. Laundry Service's meld of danceable pop and rockier ideas and textures follows the similar path of the singer-songwriter's previous work. Indeed, for all its high-end production values, the record is ultimately one of the least glossy crossover vehicles imaginable. Despite an occasional lean toward Celine Dion territory ("Underneath Your Clothes"), it has a freshness that's sure to win over new listeners even after the first single, the sly "Whenever, Wherever," has reached the saturation point. While still not fully formed as an artist, she's getting close to something of her own--something that may flower after she dumps the vocal Alanis-isms. For now, it's still a pleasure to watch her grow. --Rickey Wright
Canadian singer/composer Loreena McKennitt is self-managed, self-produced, and the head of her own internationally successful record label, Quinlan Road. In a recording career spanning nearly two decades, McKennitt's "eclectic Celtic" music has won critical acclaim worldwide and gold, platinum and multi-platinum sales awards in fifteen countries across four continents.
Loreena Mckennitt ~ The Book Of Secrets McKennitt's recordings always have the quality of a spiritual sojourn; her songs are those of a seeker, whether she's setting Yeats, Scripture, or her own words to her compositions. It's this that attracts people to her music, and The Book of Secrets is no exception, whether it's the lazy rhythms of "Marco Polo," the sober joy of "The Mummers' Dance," the poignancy of "Skellig" or "Dante's Prayer," or the drama of Alfred Noyes's "The Highwayman." "The Highwayman" is a particularly strong effort, especially in comparison to her earlier setting of "The Lady of Shalott"; McKennitt has become much more skilled at musical narrative. This is music that can be enjoyed on many levels, from McKennitt's growing skill as a composer to the deeper questions posed by her lyrics. --Genevieve Williams
Deluxe Limited Edition Includes "ne Ver, Ne Boisia" (Eurovision 2003), Bonus Dvd and Exclusive Poster. Pal Dvd Includes a 25 Minute Documentary and Three Videos ("All the Things She Said", "Not Gonna Get Us" and "How Soon is Now".
T.A.T.U. ~ 200 Km/H In The Wrong Lane Two comely teenage lesbian lovers from Russia who happen to sing? That seems more like marketing masterstroke than pop music likelihood, so it's fair to question the authenticity of t.A.T.u.'s English language debut. It's impossible to know where t.A.T.u.'s talent begins and ends and just how much influence their various handlers and producer Trevor Horn had over 200 Km/h in the Wrong Lane, but it's probably a moot point to the intended demographic. Horn's background working with electro-pop dandies Pet Shop Boys and Frankie Goes to Hollywood is evident in the crisp, driving synth cushioning singers Lena Katina and Julia Volkova's gossamer vocals. Wink-nudge lyrical references to girls loving girls--presented in serviceable if phonetic English--are in evidence, though they're more coy than graphic. "All the Things She Said," a sparkly, chorus-driven rave-up, seems to make the case for sexual equality, while "Show Me Love"--which appears in regular and extended versions--is a dance floor missive aimed straight at the clubs. Best, though, is an unintentionally ironic cover of the Smiths' "How Soon Is Now." The song, a benchmark of loneliness and hopelessness, is utterly transformed into a chirpy duet which, all things considered, may be the best gimmick of all! --Kim Hughes