Album Review: Christina Aguilera – Lotus5 min read
It’s been a number of years since we had a really great record from US superstar Christina Aguilera. Following the singers debut self-titled release back in 1999 she has been a star accustomed to turning out hits for over a decade.
Each of Aguilera’s releases has shown a different musical angle to the superstar. Starting out in pure teen-pop territory with her self-titled debut with songs like Geenie In A Bottle and What a Girl Wants she moved into more R&B waters in 2002 with Stripped where she teamed up with some of the industry’s top hip hop artists on the track ‘Dirrty’ as well as producing her most acclaimed ballad, ‘Beautiful’, both number one hits for the singer.
We have been offered a 30’s/40’s Jazz and Soul drenched record with 2006’s Back to Basics as well as a star dipping her toes into synth-driven electro-pop with her last release, 2009’s Bionic. Now it’s time for something fresh from Aguilera and we couldn’t have been happier with what she has presented to us with the release of her 7th studio album, Lotus.
In the years separating Bionic and Lotus Christina Aguilera has been through a lot of personal and professional challenges including poor album sales for Bionic and a cancelled promotional tour as well as, and more notably, her divorce. She describes Lotus as being a personal and professional ‘rebirth’ and that is evident throughout the record.
Dance floor monsters shine with tracks like Let There Be Love which sounds like a song that could have easily fit into Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor release with its vibrant synth loops and techno qualities while the singer holds her own, belting out an infectious and energetic chorus. The song pulls in the production talents of Swedish super producer Max Martin who has helped the recording careers of her fellow Mouseketeer co-stars Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake as well as Taylor Swift, The Backstreet Boys and a myriad of other pop superstars over the years and the pairing has paid off on this track which is easily one of the shining moments on Lotus.
Power ballads are almost expected on any Christina Aguilera release and those expecting some heartbreaking and love-felt moments won’t be left disappointed here.
Sing For Me provides Lotus with its balladic filling and finds the superstar sweeping through a series of heartfelt and harmonized lines while her vocals tear through the chorus with a power we have come to expect with most Aguilera ballads, seeming almost effortless in her delivery of the song. The track comes with a 90’s power ballad inspired drum roll leading her into the songs closing chorus giving the track a nostalgic kick while the following piano-led Blank Page could be one of her best ballads since Beautiful which has since become the singers signature ballad. The instrumentation is stripped back on this one to allow Aguilera’s vocals to fly through a syrupy and passionate melody as she cries out “how do we say we’re sorry” in its mid-section while soothing background vocals add a complimenting filling to the track. The chorus lyrics, “I am a blank page waiting for you to bring me to life”, resonate with vulnerability and soul on the number and showcase the songbirds’ flawless vocal skills.
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The track-listing of Lotus unites an array of genres. From her signature power pop stamp heard on tracks like the records lead single Your Body where we get a heavy dose of her legato-vocal style or Red Hot Kinda Love, on club orientated smashes like Let There Be Love and Army Of Me, mixing in subtle hip hop lickings on Around The World or spitting out a series of expletives on the adult themed F-You song Circles where she demands her challenger to “spin around in circles on my little middle finger” as its raw and rock-edged chorus demands attention nearing the end of the record.
Among the new songs comes a pair of collaborations which, again, are almost expected with any Aguilera release. The collaborations Aguilera has allowed to find home within the album seem quite predictable and that is the only fault that can be found on the record. It seems almost lazy of Aguilera but she has chosen none other than two of her Voice co-stars, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton, to provide guest spots on Lotus, something that perhaps is not going to be much of a surprise to anyone who knows Aguilera and co as panel judges on the US version of the televised reality vocal competition. Perhaps she didn’t want to leave the comfort of her rotating judges seat on the panel to find fellow superstars to record with on this new album or maybe she is just taking advantage and capitalizing on her role on the show. This seems even more evident given that her last collaboration was with the shows 4th judge Adam Levine and his band Maroon 5 on the hit single Moves Like Jagger which was a global chart-topper at the start of this year. She certainly completes the set here, having now recorded duets with all of her Voice co-judges.
Of the two duets Aguilera choses to close the record with the gorgeous, string orchestrated ballad Just A Fool. The song unites Shelton, who continues his reign as America’s vocal King, with the country scented vocals of Aguilera for one hell of a ballad and a style that suits the pop starlet more so than most genres she has dabbled with in the past. Shelton’s effortless, southern swagger helps to provide the record with its standout duet and one that showcases Aguilera’s vocal ability as being capable of translating into any genre she wants to dip her toe in and with confidence and ease.
The best song on the album however has to go to Cease Fire. Marching bands and a tight production helps execute this track on the record, one that shines with emotionally charged and poetic lyrics where Aguilera begs her lover to “throw down your weapons”. This one has all the ingredients to becoming a huge single if it is released, which we hope it will, as it rings with a strong radio friendly quality.
One of the most attractive elements to any Aguilera release is the intricate and challenging vocal arrangements. While most singers are content with nesting within their comfort zones, Christina is ever changing and developing as a vocalist and that is heard throughout the entire duration of this record – a record that is easily one of the best of her career.
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