Sunday, November 11, 2012

Christina Aguilera’s “Lotus” Blossoms

The last time around that Christina Aguilera was on the radar she was about to hit the big screen, go bionic and was suddenly a single lady. The one-two punch of a divorce and her box-office dud dulled out the buzz surrounding her electro-heavy album project. It took a competition reality show The Voice to remind everyone outside of her fan base how much of a force of nature Aguilera truly is.

A nominally successful single with co-conspirator Adam Levine proved she still had the moves. And a similarly inspired turn as a TV judge solidified that after a decades worth of music Christina knows her shit. After several seasons mentoring the musical talent of tomorrow, Christina Aguilera returns to what she does best – make music!

Critically Bionic her last full-length album project couldn’t have been more disappointing for the artist, who was releasing a techno-synth opus that had promised to deliver on high-voltage but barely had the wattage needed to light a candle. Aside from the premiere single “Not Myself Tonight” the album as a whole barely made a dent on the charts for Aguilera who had committed herself to a multi-city tour to promote Bionic.

An ambitious set of tracks, mostly all produced for the rousing commerciality of dance music that was largely inspired by the success of Lady Gaga, there was little Aguilera could do to escape the eclipse of the new music phenomenon that was challenging all conventions of popular music. Looking to challenge the critics that found joy in comparing the two, Aguilera teamed with electro-pop producers Tricky Stewart, Polow da Don and Samuel Dixon to give Bionic it uniquely synth-pop dimension.

When interest in the album fizzled, Bionic peaked at seventy-nine on the US Billboard Hot 100, and not even appearances by a then relatively unknown Nicki Minaj could raise any additional eyebrows. The plug was soon pulled on the planned “2010 Bionic Tour” – boohoo!

Defiant and resilient Aguilera appeared determined that her next album project would remind everyone of just how formidable she is. On Lotus her seventh full-length album, Aguilera demonstrates just how far she’s blossomed, from pop-princess, to pop-icon.

The strength of this compilation of tracks isn’t solely linked to Aguilera’s dominating vocals, Lotus is powered on by some very accessible pop tracks – something that many argued was missing significantly from Bionic. From the smartly crafted lead single “Your Body” is Aguilera’s proof that she is carefully listening to how music now is responding to memorable hooks and electronic beats. She isn’t compromising on her voice either. The track’s arrangement takes full advantage of her masterful range.

Fortunately “Your Body” isn’ the only petal Lotus has to pluck. Linking to the popularity of singing competition show The Voice Aguilera teams up with her mates CeeLo Green and Blake Shelton, for two of the album’s most radio-friendly tracks. “Make the World Move” is powered by a memorable drum beat that is sharpened by CeeLo’s presence. Performing with country star Blake Shelton on “Just a Fool” reveals the powerful cross-over potential of a ballad that is narratively as winning as a Carrie Underwood hit.

Lotus continues to blossom with the dance floor ready “Let There Be Love” that will be a choice favorite for club crowd that found Bionic’s tedious track list too predictable and forced. “Sing For Me” is one of albums more powerful ballads, which there are in abundance this time. There’s no denying that Aguilera’s greatest gift is her natural instrument, which easily continues to brand her the voice of her generation.

On “Army of Me” she is quick to remind us that she’s still stronger; she’s still a fighter. “Circles” poignantly takes a jab at the haters, while “Empty Words” seems to be directed at anyone that’s felt defeated or invisible – it’s her newest anthem dedicated to empowerment.

Like the endurable flower that she’s named this album after, Aguilera has grown beyond any expectations, and will go on. Her image may continue to dominate and her persona may overshadow her artistry, but there is no escaping her musicality. Fans will appreciate Lotus for what it is, a reflection of Christina Aguilera’s present. Her abstract defiance intact she continues to thumb her nose at those that thought she’d never succeed. But here she shut up!

JC Alvarez is the Nightlife Editor for EDGE On The Net and a pop-culture columnist covering celebrity and entertainment. He is the voice behind the nationally syndicated Internet radio show “Out Loud & Live!” that broadcasts every Friday @ 9pm EST on

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