Shakira - Let the She-Wolves Howl at the Moon:Where the f*** have our real Pop Stars gone?

Thomas 15/10/2009

Please tell me you've already heard Shakira's 'She Wolf' . What do you mean, no? Where have you BEEN? I'll describe it for you shortly, in extensive detail and with gratuitous use of metaphor, but I'd much rather wait for you to listen to it first. Back yet? Good. At the time of writing, 'She Wolf' sits at number 4 in the UK charts below a crushingly tedious menagerie; the odious, slimier-than-a-frog's-back DJ David Guetta, autopilot Jay-Z dud 'Empire State of Mind' and the bland, forgettable ringtone R&B of Taio Cruz.

Sexier than Nigella Lawson narrating her own orgy, 'She Wolf' is an exotic, modern disco-funk missile that shines like a lighthouse in these tombstone-grey seas toward how pop should actually sound in the 21st century: white-hot, clever, gazing up at the stars not down at the pavements.

Sounding like it's been beamed in from outer space with the slinkiest of bouncing basslines and fluid, shiny funk guitar it's a vocoder-enhanced tale of "lycanthropy", a word you expect would melt the brain of this week's number 8, Pixie Lott, into its component parts of chewing gum and Tizer. It is of course about unleashing one's inner wolf, but describing it merely as such sells it unfairly short. Written by the singer herself and inspired by the extra self-confidence gained after hitting 30, that Shakira means it from where it matters gives the track its soul.

Her playful sense of fun also pervades throughout, a trait sorely missing amongst many of the current crop. The year's biggest success is undoubtedly Lady Gaga, but there's as little humanity or elation in her distant, robotic shtick as there is in Beyonce's joyless ass-shaking. Since when was pop music this cold?

Recent standard-bearers (albeit with Xenomania) Girls Aloud have elected to take a break after bringing glamour and humour to the party for six years, and the old guard of true pop are also starting to fall by the wayside. The Pet Shop Boys have entered national treasure status at the expense of any lingering relevance, George Michael is more likely to be found slumped at the wheel than penning a new 'Freedom', and Madonna... well, if you really want to go and see her rubbing her crotch at 50, go right ahead, but don't send us a postcard.

The question is: Who is there to take their place? That one, brothers and sisters, is opened to the floor....

Such is the state of things it's actually a relief to welcome back Robbie Williams, a man who, whilst horribly overexposed in the early 00's, remains in many ways a classic entertainer. Williams is clever enough to know how to imprint his personality heavily on every song, a trick lost on many interchangeable 80's obsessives and wannabe urban heroes. Whether new track 'Bodies' is up to standard or not is debatable, but you certainly can't mistake it for anyone else.

The early part of the decade also found indie-rock bands crossing over thanks to great pop hooks, the likes of 'Don't Look Back Into The Sun' and, of course, 'Take Me Out' reaching out to a wide audience. Yet only The Killers have managed this trick of late, though their number 3 placing for the bizarrely Europop 'Human' was perhaps more due to it sounding like a lost classic from years past rather than breaking any new ground.

Is it just possible that having convinced ourselves wearily that everything in pop is fake or recycled, hearing something both fresh and genuine is almost too much for the system?

Perhaps we just need Kylie to save us all with some sugary disco loveliness. One thing for certain is that in the meantime we have the flat-out best chorus of 2009 to enjoy, so let your she-wolf out of the closet and let that fucker breathe. Aoow-oooh!