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Aguilera Struggles to Upgrade Her Sound
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26 May 2010 EST

- by Drew Kolar, Staff Writer

Pop music is in trouble.  For a long time now, originality has been hard to come by.  Of course, when auto-tune and blatant product placement is widely used and high fashion becomes a gimmick more than a statement, it’s easy to see where the problem lies.  Still, pop stars of the past keep trying, for better or worse. 

Christina Aguilera hasn’t released an album since 2006.  As a matter of fact, she only had three studio albums since her debut in 1999, a rarity among pop stars with America’s need for instant gratification.  With Aguilera’s fourth album Bionic scheduled to hit stores on June 8, it is plain to see she’s still trying to playing it safe.

 

The first single, “Not Myself Tonight,” is very reminiscent of the hip hop/pop her fans are used to, and the video is pure “Xtina”—“dirty,” so to speak.  Ironically enough, the title fits, as many of the videos scenes mirror classic Madonna with hints of Lady GaGa. 

All GaGa comparisons aside, Bionic had hope, promising collaborations with Sia, Le Tigre, M.I.A., Santigold, Ladytron... Aguilera’s hipster street cred could have put her back on the map.

Unfortunately, though the partnerships show versatility, many of the hip hop songs drown the record and definitely place the album's release as being a few years too late, especially if she is using it to evolve beyond her past.  Her vocal talent is also not featured well—and everyone knows she can sing.

 

It’s a shame that the singles don’t really represent the eclectic mix of the album. 

The second single, “Woohoo,” is utterly ridiculous—the entire track is literally a rap about her “woohoo,” as she calls it.  The “Xtina” raunch-factor is also played out, “Sex for Breakfast” aside, as it is reminiscent of a sultry Janet Jackson tune.  The “MILF” idea really doesn’t work for her, either. 

The opener “Bionic” is very M.I.A.-influenced, as is “Elastic Love,” actually co-written with M.I.A. These may not be quite the standout tracks, but they are welcome evolutions of Aguilera’s usual style, pushing her more to the updated electronic side of hip hop.  And though “My Girls,” featuring Peaches and produced by Le Tigre, is mostly a shout-out to the girls on the album, the “girl power” anthem definitely sums up her direction with Bionic.

 

The best songs that actually showcase her vocals are the ones written with Sia, specifically “You Lost Me,” a piano waltz about a cheating lover. It is the most heartfelt song in the album and only one that showcases a real vocal range.  “All I Need” is another Sia-styled waltz dedicated to her son.  The Linda Perry contribution “Lift Me Up” is a decent yet seemingly filler pop/rock ballad. 

Bionic would work better as smaller releases.  The M.I.A., Le Tigre and Santigold collaborations could fit in one dancehall-friendly set, while the Linda Perry and Sia songs would flow nicely as an EP of ballads.  She could throw out many of the leftovers.  Perhaps Aguilera can prove herself on tour, though she has postponed it until 2011 supposedly due to album promotions as well as a starring role in the upcoming musical movie Burlesque, alongside Cher and Kristen Bell. 

Though she may not be ready to bow out of the business, it may be time to rethink her musical direction to help take pop music beyond what it has become, rather than falling to its current level, which leaves much to be desired.

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