Out of the thousands of pop singers who dominate the charts, one name should be at the very top of that category: Christina Aguilera. Her talent and longevity has kept audiences entertained and dazzled by her strong diva personality and even stronger voice.
This sensational career hasn’t been without its shortcomings, though. Aguilera has had some missteps over the years: Her first attempt at acting resulted in the not so stellar “Burlesque”; she experienced a devastating divorce and soon after embarrassed herself by flubbing the lyrics to the National Anthem during the 2011 Super Bowl. If that wasn’t enough to get Aguilera down, having her last album “Bionic” tank in sales certainly would have done the trick..
Even so, the ever-resilient Aguilera has been determined to move past the setbacks by making a rather impressive comeback with her sting on NBC’s “The Voice.” The cherry on the icing, though, is the release of her fifth studio album “Lotus,” which is sure to be much more successful than her last musical endeavor. With this new album, Aguilera seeks a return to her classic pop hits as well as setting the record straight about who she is and who she’ll always be.
The upbeat first single from “Lotus” is the tantalizing “Your Body,” a tongue-in-cheek track produced by one of the biggest music producers in pop, Max Martin. What makes the single work in comparison to similar beats found on “Bionic” is Martin’s slick influence on production quality. He works to enhance Aguilera’s soulful vibrato rather than hiding it behind layers and layers of auto-tune. (The colorful music video is almost just as fun as the song.)
This isn’t the case with every dance song on the album. Pieces such as “Make the World Move,” which features fellow “Voice” judge CeeLo Green, fails to stand out as a radio-friendly hit. “Let There Be Love” is marginally better but still sounds slightly overproduced.
Fret not: Aguilera still has tricks up her sleeve. The explicit diatribe known as “Circles” is among Aguilera’s sassier songs with her spouting f-bombs left and right. It’s catchy and filthy, but this is from the same girl who released “Dirrty,” so we can’t be surprised. As a nod to her older repertoire, Xtina describes her song “Army of Me” as a sort of “Fighter 2.0,” and the comparison is astutely obvious. “Fighter” is definitely the more iconic track of the two, but younger and newer fans will appreciate an update to one of the most defining songs of Aguilera’s career.
The strongest songs on “Lotus” are unsurprisingly the sweeping ballads that showcase the true, raw power of Aguilera’s singing chops. “Blank Page,” co-written by Aguilera and Sia, might just one of her best songs in years with lyrics declaring “I am a blank page waiting for life to start.” It holds true to Aguilera’s overall theme for the album.
Several other notable songs include “Cease Fire,” “Empty Words” and the never-disappointing female empowerment ballad that graces every Xtina album, “Best of Me.” Aguilera does change things up a bit from her normal style to prove she isn’t a one-trick pony: “Just a Fool,” a duet with another “Voice” cohort, Blake Shelton, will likely be a country cross-over hit reminiscent of Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now.”
While “Lotus” isn’t a perfect album (especially in comparison to “Stripped”) Aguilera has redeemed herself from the hot mess known as “Bionic” and has a few potential radio hits on her hands. She’s still the Xtina we all know and love for her brassy vocals and divalicious attitude. If Aguilera is as smart as she is sassy, then fans can hope that she’ll continue to learn from her missteps and use them to grow as an artist. “Lotus” proves to fans everywhere that Aguilera isn’t going away anytime soon: this is just simply a new beginning for her. —
Speakeasy Rating: B+
Must-Listen: “Your Body”, “Blank Page”, “Cease Fire”, “Empty Words”, and “Just a Fool”.
Skip: “Make the World Move” and “Around the World”