Michael Ashton

Album Review: “Lotus” by Christina Aguilera

In Reviews on December 15, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Christina-Aguilera-Lotus-Feature

In the two years since Christina Aguilera released the commercially and critically maligned Bionic, she went through a divorce and received poor reviews on her performance in Burlesque. Since then, she rebounded as a coach on NBC’s The Voice, scored a #1 hit with Maroon 5 and began work on a new studio record. It would go without saying that this next release would chronicle this chapter in her professional and personal life. Her newest album, Lotus, is the culmination of these experiences.

With a discography of albums individually dedicated to throwback soul and futuristic electronica, Aguilera has always (sometimes, arrogantly) prided herself on being an artist ahead of the curve compared to her pop star peers. In most cases, the tracks on her fifth studio prove otherwise, relying on safe and familiar sounds. The album begins with promise on the “Lotus Intro” – an experimentation of layers of chanting vocals and chilled-out electro where Aguilera likens herself to a rising, unbreakable flower. Though “Your Body” is arguably her best single in years, it and the neon pulse of “Let There Be Love” align her with the faceless, homogenized Top 40 songs that newer artists have conquered many times over in Aguilera’s musical absence.

With her intentions to regain footing on the charts are obvious, she enlists mega-producers Lucas Secon, Max Martin and Shellback. Unfortunately, they supply her with sloppy, slapdash productions that are so busy and overstuffed that Aguilera herself sounds lost trying to keep up with their pace. Alex Da Kid, who has previously produced for Eminem and Skylar Grey and helms nearly half of Lotus, provides Aguilera with tepid and uninspiring tunes. Aguilera has proved to be a competent songwriter since her second album Stripped, but it seems here that she has run out of ideas. She assumes the position of a soldier waving her white flag on “Cease Fire”, rewrites a less interesting version of her 2002 hit “Fighter” into “Army of Me” and takes aim at her unnamed haters on the bonus track, “Shut Up”. The worst offender on the 13 track set is the abrasive Supa Dups-produced “All Around the World”, where Aguilera runs down a laundry list of cities and countries where she would like to make love in. It eventually winds up being as sexy as a root canal. Even a much-hyped collaboration with Cee-Lo on the retro-sounding “Make the World Move” never fully takes off, eventually crumbling under its own weight.

In contrast, there are bright spots on the album, but they too are not without flaws. “Red Hot Kinda Love” is a summery jam that winds up being the album’s standout track, likely due to its vocal modesty. When she pulls in the reins during the verses of power ballads she demonstrates excellent use of her vocals. But when she reaches to the end of her range on ballads like “Sing for Me”, “Blank Page” and “Just a Fool” (featuring Blake Shelton), they are ruined by Aguilera’s penchant for shouts and pointless over-singing that threaten to overtake the entire song for the worse.

For all of its intents and purposes, Lotus renders to be disappointing because it’s to on the nose for what it sets out to achieve. When the pretenses are down, the results are refreshing. Being her shortest album since her debut, there is less filler but too many songs that abandon Aguilera’s instincts that made her earlier releases work so well.

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