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Track Review

For anyone wondering whether the January 2013 birth of Colombian superstar Shakira's first child, Milan Piqué Mebarak, has toned down the singer's famously (or infamously) sensual approach to music, the short answer is no.

What follows is the longer one.

Remember, first of all, that this is the woman who brought us the shimmy-filled "Hips Don't Lie" back in 2006. And it's going to take more than just becoming a mother, apparently, to tone her down. Because she's definitely back to her shimmy-shake ways on "Can't Remember to Forget You."

No, she's far surpassed them.

This collaboration with Rihanna is an up-tempo, reggae-tinged, dance-rock hit that tells us she should wash her hands of a guy whom she repeatedly describes as one of "yesterday's mistakes." But she can't quite shake the pulse-quickening memories of a temperature-raising rendezvous. "I can't remember to forget you," she croons in the chorus, "I keep forgetting I should let you go/But when you look at me/The only memory/Is us kissing in the moonlight."

Rihanna picks up from there, narrating the predictable outcome of failing to forget this magnetically manipulative lover: "I go back again/Fall off the train/Land in his bed/Repeat yesterday's mistakes."

Both Shakira and Rihanna luxuriate in the "the way he makes me feel" and how "he a part of me now, he a part of me." It's no shock, then, when these love-'n'-lust-struck ladies finally confess, "So where he goes, I follow, follow, follow," even though they say they know better. Nor are they going to let anyone or anything stand in their way: "I rob and I kill to keep him with me/I do anything for that boy."

The lusty lover at the heart of the song's story, however, is nowhere to be seen in the video. Instead, we get intercut images of Shakira and Rihanna wearing a progression of outfits and lingerie that could be categorized as little and very little as they writhe and undulate sensuously and suggestively, obviously indulging once more the carnal memories that inspired the song in the first place. It's fleshy business, to be sure, and multiple shots of Shakira's barely covered, frequently gyrating hips, backside and breasts (and Rihanna's too) are pretty much all the camera cares about.

But not quite.

Even though they're singing about a man, these two end up doing quite a bit of onscreen pawing and caressing of each other, all while smoking fat cigars and playing shamelessly to pornographic lesbian stereotypes.

The images prompted Colombian politician Marco Fidel Ramirez to tweet a series of messages denouncing Shakira as promoting "moral decay" among young fans: "Our Shakira with her erotic video is promoting tobacco usage and has become the worst example for our youth," he said. "Shakira's new video is a shameless case for lesbianism and immorality. It is a danger to children. … It sends a provocative message to weak people who can be polluted and induced to practice [lesbianism]."

In an interview with CNN, Ramirez, who is reportedly a Christian, added that the sexually explicit tone of the video is "not useful for the emotional growth and development of youths."

It's hard to argue much with Ramirez's logic here, because the video seems to do little more than erotically communicate that if two women can't have the man they really long for, they can always just settle for each other.

Call it a 21st-century take on "Love the One You're With."

Positive Elements

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Peaked at No. 15

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January 13, 2014

On Video

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Adam R. Holz

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