Has Xtina Finally been Stripped?
This week saw the releases of Lotus, Christina Aguilera’s fifth studio album (if you exclude the Latin album, the Christmas album, and Keeps Getting’ Better the greatest hits). After the mixed reaction to the sometimes-brilliant Bionic, expectations were high for Chrissy to deliver with her latest release, and indeed it (sometimes) does.
As a “pop-by-numbers” record a-la Ms. Spears, Rihanna and Ms. Minaj, Lotus succeeds. We have the infinitely amazing title/introduction track “Lotus”, which samples M83’s “Midnight City”. Here Christina’s vocals are processed almost to robotic construction, but without the inevitable auto-tune, leaving us with a futuristic Christina (something that Bionic attempted and failed).
One’s hopes of the album are, therefore, left high. Indeed, I would go as far as to suggest the first six songs on the album fall into the category of amazing Pop. But, as each track progresses, a little bit more Xtina is lost and little ol’ Chrissy just becomes Christina. Xtina gets lost, as it were, within the big production, vocal editing, and song writing credits. The obviously amazing “Your Body”, produced and written by super-Pop producer Max Martin, highlights this fact further. One of the better Pop songs this year, the song could have been recorded by anybody. We have “Let There Be Love”, the most generic sounding song this year since “Girl Gone Wild”. All of this does not bode well.
We then reach that part of every Christina Aguilera album – the middle ballad section, this time containing only two songs (very restrained babe). The opening song of this section, “Sing For Me”, harks back to the ballads of the nineties, both in production and song writing, and not in a fun way. However, the brilliant “Blank Page”, written by songwriter du-jour Sia, is totally and utterly brilliant: great whispery harmonies in the bridge and chorus, and a great post-chorus chorus thingy.
The rest of the album features some midtempo tracks, most notably “Cease Fire” a military infused song, and closes with some Aguilera-esque ballads. The oddly placed “Circles”, an R&B “middle finger” to an ex-lover, seems totally out of place within the album’s 16 tracks.
It appears that Aquilera, after the release of Boinic, was after a hit record. All the materials are there, Max Martin produced Pop-bangers, songs influenced by nights at “the club”. But, like Bionic, Christina has lost her way again. Unlike Bionic, which could have done with some label interference, Lotus could have done with less. As an album it seems more comprehensive than the eclectic mixture of ballads, R&B, and Pop that both Stripped and Bionic follow. But unlike these two albums there seems to be less Xtina.
Isn’t the reason why Stripped was so successful, and indeed ridiculous, because Christina created this absurd duality? This again worked well with Back to Basics, her most comprehensive and impressive album to date; the creation of an alter ego allowed her to take messages too far and to be egotistical. So where has it all gone wrong? Bionic needed direction, one which could have been there if the ego had been removed. Lotus fails due to its lack of sincerity, but also personality. We hear about Christina’s “fuck you” to the ex-lover, or critics, but what I wanted was Xtina to take her pants off, and shake her tits and fanny at us.
There seems to be a sense of disassociation, like she has lost touch with reality. The problem is that these girls were told that they were “the-shit”. Both her and Ms. Spears, whose fame and success came so early and so quick, seem to be out of the loop. Aguilera puts out records two years too late to be as revolutionary as she suggests she is. Britney has no sense not to include Will.i.am on her record. Rihanna, on the other hand seems to create a disposable form of Pop music that, at times is horrendous, at others sheer brilliance (see “We Found Love”). Bionic has moments of this sheer brilliance, with the decision to work with Ladytorn, Le Tigre, Santogold, and M.I.A, but Aguilera’s insistence on R&B ballads and shoving the best tracks to the deluxe version, caused some issues.
All in all, however, Lotus is not terrible. It probably has more staying power due to the radio friendly sound, but really, Christina needs to dust off those leather chaps, go to a car park, and get back into the boxing ring.
Songs to Download: “Red Hot Kinda’ Love”, “Your Body”, “Lotus”, “Blank Page”.
Lotus is out now on iTunes or Listen here: