Listening to Shakira has never been as much fun as watching Shakira.
In videos, the Colombian singer is usually gyrating, writhing suggestively, or slathering her well-toned body with some substance, so one probably doesn't notice that she sometimes sounds like she's singing while riding a bike on a cobblestone road. Clearly, Shakira knows this, which may explain why she's naked, except for strategically placed leaves, on the cover of her latest album, ''Oral Fixation Vol. 2." Stare at the singer, doing her best naughty Eve in the Garden of Eden, complete with the forbidden fruit in her hand, and you may be too mesmerized to recognize that this is a collection of very bland music.
Whereas the lyrics on ''Fijación Oral Vol. 1," released earlier this year, were in Spanish, here Shakira aims for the American market with English songs. Yet, something's been lost in translation. Ever since her 2001 breakthrough, ''Laundry Service," Shakira has been mindful of hanging on to her hard-won American audience. In the process, she has stripped away the more compelling aspects of her music. For example, ''Animal City" may have saucy horn trills and clangy rock guitar, but at its core is standard stuff.
That's what plagues this entire album. Certainly Shakira, who also produced the CD, has some interesting ideas. ''Hey You" is a weird little gem with chattering horns and a kind of Fiona Apple fearlessness. Still, even Apple might hesitate before delivering a lyric like ''I'd like to be the owner of the zipper on your jeans." Both lyrically and musically, it's as interesting as anything Shakira has done since making her mark with American listeners.
As with the cultural spasm of Latin pop in the late 1990s, everything extraordinary about Latin music here is dumbed down for the masses. Usually, Shakira errs on the side of caution, and the results are bloodless ballads like ''Your Embrace," although there's a certain amusement to be found in such odd lines as ''Tell me what's the use/ Of a 24-inch waist/ If you don't touch me?"
Carlos Santana, who apparently no longer needs sleep, adds just enough guitar work to make ''Illegal" more interesting than it might otherwise be, although it's still by-the-book adult contemporary. If only Shakira had been willing to take more chances, she might have scored a winner on ''Oral Fixation." Instead, she shortchanges herself, delivering another album for fans who like Latin music that's not too Latin.