Music: Divas Down - And Up!

SHAKIRA. The English-language Oral Fixation, Vol. 2 (Epic; Music ••••, Sound ••••) is the sequel to the all-Spanish FijaciÓn Oral, Vol. 1 - but aside from two overlapping songs, it's a different Shakira entirely. The Spanish set was a lush and relatively subdued pop disc; the follow-up is wildly and creatively multicultural. Shakira sets the bar high on the opening "How Do You Do" by sampling a mix of Christian, Hebrew, and Arabic choirs - and turning the result into the song's main hook. Elsewhere, she nicks a David Bowie intro for "Costume Makes the Clown" and layers flamenco and metal guitars on "Animal City." The melodies are more than strong enough to support all these touches, and though Shakira's voice is often compared with Alanis Morissette's, her dizzying high-to-low swoops are a lot closer to vintage Kate Bush. The one thing that hasn't caught up to Shakira's ambition is her lyrics. Lines like "What's the use of a 24-inch waist if you don't touch me?" are just too teenage for a disc that exudes so much musical confidence. - Brett Milano

MADONNA. Midlife crisis, anyone? It's as if the now 47-year-old Madonna has been sitting around the castle since the commercial disappointment of American Life, guzzling Kabbalah water and chanting, "Mirror ball, mirror ball on the wall, who's still the fairest of them all?" Befitting its title, the non-stop Confessions on a Dance Floor (Warner Bros.; Music •••, Sound •••) is a cardio-pumping return to the scene of her prime - the hot 'n' sweaty, late-1970s downtown New York clubs from which, lest we forget, she first emerged. Although the up-with-me lyrics are at times embarrassing (in "Like It or Not" she compares herself with Cleopatra and Mata Hari), it's fun to hear the retro synth blips invoking the spirit of ABBA ("Hung Up") and Giorgio Moroder ("Future Lovers"). So, if it makes her happy: yes, you're still the Dancing Queen, Esther. - Billy Altman

LINDSAY LOHAN. Her dad is apparently a piece of work, but that's the stuff of gossip columns and family interventions, not concept albums. Yet Lohan bares her issues on her second CD, A Little More Personal (Raw) (Casablanca; Music ••, Sound ••), which jumps the line between catharsis and exploitation. When she works "I Want You to Want Me" into a group of songs about needing her dad's attention, you know that good taste wasn't on the agenda. There's some decent teen pop, even if backing vocals have to mask Lohan's just-adequate voice. As for the other cover, "Edge of Seventeen," it's so overproduced that it makes the original sound like a basement tape. - Brett Milano