Christina Aguilera‘s latest album Lotus hit retailers yesterday (November 13), facing stiff competition from several other high-profile releases — and while “Your Body” has continued to plateau on the charts, anticipation was still running high for Legendtina’s big comeback. But were critics ready for Aguilera’s blooming Lotus? Well — sort of. Overall reception has been fairly mixed, with most reviewers awarding the album a middling score and noting that while there are strengths, it suffers from pathological oversinging and production overkill that makes it feel mediocre as a whole. But nobody’s arguing that her voice is still one of the best in the game, and everyone agrees that Lotus is a modern pop record that (probably) improves upon the chaos of Bionic.
Read the best quotes from the critics after the jump.
:: The Onion AV Club found Lotus “disappointingly faceless,” writing: “[H]er most successful songs tended to possess personality, vulnerability, and a defiant disregard for convention. Lotus, Aguilera’s fifth album of new material, often disappoints on all three counts. The relative indifference to her last album, 2010’s unfairly maligned Bionic, seems to have pushed her into making an album that isn’t as outré or risky. And so in spite of a recurring theme of rebirth, Lotus often plays it safe. “
:: Grantland called the return “glorious,” noting that while there’s plenty of filler, the album is still “more than enough to remind us of Christina’s prodigious vocal talent and to reestablish her credentials as a career artist,” and unpacking the thread of anxiety that runs through the album: “She has been open about the prehistoric sexism she encounters in the entertainment industry. Lotus is packed with aggressive songs about fighting back against your “superhatin’” enemies. Despite all the army imagery and the domineeringly sexually confident attitude, Aguilera seems very defensive and almost insecure. She can wail, of course, but it’s the rare softer moments that tease at the Christina we still only sometimes see.”
:: The Huffington Post thought that the album was solid but just short of exceptional, writing: “Christina Aguilera is easily one of contemporary music’s best voices. She’s got pipes that music-lovers need to hear at a time when Top 40 radio features studio-enhanced vocals and award shows are full of lip syncing. That’s why her fifth album, Lotus, is somewhat disappointing – not because it isn’t good, but because it isn’t great. Sure, it’s an improvement from 2010′s Bionic, a chaotic album that is Aguilera’s only one not to reach platinum status. Lotus is more focused, thankfully, but not as satisfying as her first three releases.”
:: The New York Daily News liked Lotus, in particular the songcraft, although they felt her vocals were at times too powerful for the songs: “Even when Aguilera means to shed real blood, the sheer force of her vocals cauterizes the wounds before any red can flow. She’s a bully of a singer, pummeling the notes into the ground as she rails in triumph. Of course, there’s a certain charge to be had from such raw power. And Aguilera deserves credit for indulging far fewer showy melismas this time. She may continue to oversing, but at least she’s doing so with more focus. Also improved is the material. Lotus contains some of the catchiest, danciest and funniest songs of the singer’s career.”
:: Entertainment Weekly lambasted the album, giving it a C- and writing that Aguilera seems unlikable and the production is overkill: “Backed by megaproducers Max Martin, Shellback, and Lucas Secon, and boosted by The Voice, Lotus should have been Aguilera’s mainstream pop comeback. Occasionally she can still power through a chorus like a Russian weight lifter (see: ‘Sing for Me’). Too bad most of these tracks digitally smother her voice, draining all the emotion until she just sounds bitter. It’s unclear whom she’s mad at here. But somehow Lotus makes you want to root for the other guy.”
:: The Guardian thought Lotus was modern and effective, even with its occasional misfires: “Most of the uptempo tracks follow production trends closely and then drop an ecstatic Aguilerean ululation on top. You can see straight through them but they work. There’s more Rihanna-copping, for instance, on’ Around the World,’ a come-hither tune that also quotes from Aguilera and co’s cover of Lady Marmalade (Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mýa, Pink), from a time when she could put no stiletto wrong.”
:: The Boston Globe felt the record announced her return to the pop charts well: “Bubbling over with memorable melodies, throbbing dance grooves, and dynamic vocals, her new album, Lotus, is a good start in the effort to refocus attention on Aguilera’s skills and scrub our memories of 2010’s disastrous Bionic… There are missteps, including needless Auto-tune and a few of what sound like Rihanna or Katy Perry leftovers. And there are several tracks that sound mindlessly repetitive as sedentary listening experiences but will likely improve with the addition of a dancefloor, including the Max Martin-Shellback produced ‘Let There Be Love.’ Welcome back, Xtina.”