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Album Review: Christina Aguilera – Lotus

Photo: Enrique Badulescu

Christina, even at her worst, has always been a trailblazer. One of the first ‘big’ artists to draft in Sia Furler, songwriter of the moment, and also one of the first to take notice of current fellow-diva Nicki Minaj. The futuristic vibe of her last release ‘Bionic’ left a lot of people feeling cold however. Say what you want, but the material just wasn’t as innovative or exciting as the stuff that had made her the superstar that she is known for being. But now, back with a reasonably lengthy opus, as is her style, Aguilera is fully aware of the bionic-barriers blocking her way – ‘now I’ve found my second skin’ she defiantly states. Ladies and gentlemen, here is Christina Aguilera 2.0.

After that massive build up, I’m afraid to report that ‘Lotus’ isn’t perfect, but we’ll come to the flaws later on. The first thing that will strike you is the quality of the material on offer. The instant ‘Army Of Me’ gets better with every listen, as does the gorgeous ‘Lotus (Intro)’, a track that stands out thanks to it’s stunning build up and enchanting choral touches. ‘Cease Fire’ is another instant favourite – it’s mellow, mid-tempo styling has obviously had an effect on Christina as she tones down the trembling vocals to match it and it’s brooding nature is exactly what makes it as special as it is.

Christina attempts to reclaim her retro-queen crown from current wearer Ceelo Green on their duet ‘Make The World Move’ which has potentially one of the greatest post-choruses in either vocalists career. Christina tries a similar style alone on ‘Red Hot Kinda Love’ that chooses it’s bridge to unleash it’s shining moment. ‘Around The World’ is confidently album material but it excels – the slightly cheesy lyrics are hidden beneath some huge, pounding beats that make the track as electric as it is.

Ofcourse, there are ballads. ‘Blank Page’ may leave you a little empty on first listen, but it’s charm magnifies with repeated listens and it is clear to see why Sia is given the high regard she deserves as an extraordinary songwriter. The bonus tracks bring out the best slowies – ‘Light Up The Sky’ is a fantastic, soaring number whilst ‘Empty Words’ has a strong 90s feel to it, harking back to Christina’s breakthrough as a solo artist.

There is one negative that, depending on how you approach the album, could be minor or major. The issue I have with ‘Lotus’ is the same issue I had with ‘Bionic’ – it doesn’t feel like a whole. ‘Let There Be Love’ teamed with ‘Your Body’ sound like they’ve been lifted from a dance project, whilst ‘Blank Page’ and ‘Sing For Me’ hark back to Stripped-era Christina. Credit to the team for making the record flow as the similar tracks are lumped together, but as a body of work, it feels a little schizophrenic and a few touches here and there to the track listing and production might have tightened it up a little.

There are only a few tunes worth skipping – the generic ‘Let There Be Love’ and ‘Sing For Me’, which finds all it’s trump cards played harder and better elsewhere. But so much of this material will be fighting for a second listen the moment you’ve heard it. All of the earlier mentioned tracks are stellar, as is the Fergie-styled bonus track ‘Shut Up’, plus a lot of people are flocking to sing the praises of ‘Circles’ an attitude soaked tirade featuring a slightly unnecessary bit of foul mouthed Xtina.

It is a shame to see that this record has, thus far, not achieved half as much success that her former releases have. Perhaps now the issue is not the lacking material that the previous opus was bogged down by, but a distinct lack of promotion. As far as the average person is concerned, Christina has been missing in action since the Back to Basics campaign – perhaps it’s time that her team used the still-iconic name of Christina Aguilera to book slots on the biggest shows, perform on the talent contests whilst it’s still respected and in doing so, prove that, despite lack of attention, there is certainly no lack of talent and strong material.

Photo: Enrique Badulescu
Words: Simon McMurdo

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