Christina Aguilera’s Lotus is coming our way mid-November, so it’s finally time to let go of the past — forgive, forget, and move on from prior missteps, right? Wrong! We were just about to stop ragging on Bionic and let Xtina’s new (and, presumably, improved) music speak for itself, but then she had to go pick at the wound again by making some pretty extreme claims about the LP in her Billboard cover story. Amongst other gems, The Voice judge says you have to “really be a music lover” to appreciate her 2010 flop, which will “forever live on.” Say what?
Aguilera’s full quote: “I can proudly say [Bionic] was ahead of its time, to be honest. It wasn’t so commercialized. You had to really be a music lover, be a true fan of music and the love of being open to really appreciate that record. It’s just a special piece in my body of work that will forever live on. The older the record gets the more people will come to appreciate it actually and check it out.”
Okay. So let’s dust this off one more time. Sure, there are a handful of solid tracks on Bionic, which seemed designed — perhaps too calculatingly — to point the way toward a gleaming future, four years after Christina’s (perhaps too calculatingly) retro Back To Basics collection. She recruited some of genuine innovators for the effort, including Ladytron, Sia, Le Tigre and M.I.A. and Santigold. The Sia collaborations hold up against Xtina’s ballads from other albums, and there are a couple interesting, innovative tracks (like the M.I.A. co-write “Elastic Love,” if you can ignore the lyrics).
But overall, Bionic suffers from a major identity crisis, veering wildly between different sounds and ideas in a jarring yet directionless ride. The end result was a synthetic collection of songs that added up to “one of the most disappointing” albums of 2010, according to Entertainment Weekly‘s list.
One minute, on tracks like “I Hate Boys” and “Vanity,” Christina is a bratty teenager (a role she’s a bit old for, frankly); the next, she’s a futuristic sex-bot (“Elastic Love” and the title track); then she’s just totally grossing us out (the ode to cunnilingus that is “Woohoo” and “Sex For Breakfast,” which makes two things that are normally wonderful in the morning sound completely unappealing). And in other instances, as in the listless Linda Perry-penned “Lift Me Up”, she aspires to something reflective, but falls well short. A lot of the lyrics are, quite honestly, embarrassing, and several bonus tracks — including the Ladytron-produced “Birds Of Prey” — are actually better than the ones that made the cut on the standard album.
But that’s our opinion, and clearly Christina has a different take. We were under the impression that she was aware of Bionic‘s flaws, but apparently, she stands by it! Who knew?
The biggest head-scratcher is that Christina thinks Bionic “wasn’t so commercialized.” If by that she means it was unable to spawn any hit singles, she is correct. But we doubt that’s for lack of trying, since Bionic throws just about everything but the kitchen sink at us, trying to get something (anything!) to stick. (Any album with a Nicki Minaj feature has got to be pretty “commercialized.”) Compared to Aguilera’s other albums, like Stripped and Back To Basics, which had such clear direction and vision, Bionic feels like a lot of tracks randomly slapped together with no care as to how they cohere as a whole.
So according to Xtina’s definition, we can no longer be considered “music lovers.” (Now it’s our fault?) We can agree on one point, at least — certain tracks will “forever live on,” because we still occasionally play “Vanity” and “Bobblehead” when we need a good chuckle at Christina’s expense.
But okay. We’ve said our piece, and now we’re done. Let’s just hope we find a little more to love in Lotus, so we can be considered “true fans of music” again.