Christina Aguilera has long been referred to as the “voice of her generation” and judging by her new album, ‘Lotus’, she definitely agrees with that claim. Yet, such a notion extends beyond the power of her now rusty instrument to reflect a diva passed her prime and desperately trying to prove a point.
By abandoning the one person with the gall to keep her wails in check – Linda Perry – and enlisting Alex da Kid, Sia, Alexander Grant and Max Martin, Aguilera unleashes the brunt of her overwhelming voice across seventeen tracks of bombastic self-assurance. Thankfully, however, the full impact of her almost barbaric singing was softened by a thick shroud of auto-tune and vocal layering.
Aguilera screams at maximum volume on ‘Just a Fool’, which is supposed to be a duet with her fellow ‘The Voice’ coach, Blake Shelton. Unfortunately for the unsuspecting Country crooner, Aguilera’s ego is just as big as her voice and they both steal the spotlight on the song, leaving little room for Shelton to chime in.
A similar situation occurs on the weakest ‘Lotus’ track, ‘Make the World Move’. Featuring the trite message of changing the world with nothing but a smile, Aguilera refuses to give guest act Cee Lo Green the chance to shine amidst the sloppy production. Even in the empty gaps of the verses, she drops her ever so cocky “ha” at every opportunity instead of allowing Green to fill the dead air with actual lyrics.
Still, nothing on ‘Lotus’ compares to the most overbearing expression of unbridled bellowing and gross ego masturbation, ‘Sing for Me’. To enjoy this song, you will need to forget about self-restraint and everything you learned at choir practice in Sunday school because you won’t find those teachings reflected here. Instead, Aguilera does exactly what the lyrics of the record suggest: she opens her mouth to let her voice run wild and free like a stampeding bull in a children’s hospital.
“We can only hope that the only people influenced by ‘Sing for Me’ are the shower stall vocalists, whose screams sound remarkably better thanks to the acoustics of their bathrooms.”
For months Aguilera has been boasting that ‘Lotus’ is a special source of inspiration for the next generation of singers. We can only hope that the only people influenced by ‘Sing for Me’ are the shower stall vocalists, whose screams sound remarkably better thanks to the acoustics of their bathrooms. Ironically, judging by the amount of reverb on the track, that is probably the place where Aguilera recorded the song.
Regardless of those gross blunders, ‘Lotus’ isn’t an entirely bad album. When Aguilera suppresses her urge to show off her massive voice, she impresses with surprising subtlety. For instance, by channeling Santigold on the infectious ‘Red Hot Kind of Love’, Aguilera reminds us of the fun side of her ill-fated ‘Bionic’ album. Additionally, the feisty ‘Circles’ demonstrates the flexibility of Aguilera’s range and her unique ability to make cursing fun.
The are a few instances on ‘Lotus’ where Aguilera’s wails actually work in her favour. On ‘Light Up the Sky’, she scales the octaves as she blasts the message of anthem into the stratosphere and she follows in the footsteps of another butterfly-loving diva, who shall remain unnamed. Moreover, the Dance-styled ‘Let There Be Love’ reintroduces Aguilera as a club queen who can party with the best of them.
Other standout songs on ‘Lotus’ include ‘Best of Me’, the Adele-inspired ‘Cease Fire’ and the top choice for a future single, ‘Empty Words’. The last of those tunes is bolstered by a foot-stomping beat that is ideal for radio and has the potential be a hit with the right promotion.
The remaining tracks are hardly worth mentioning. ‘Shut Up’ is a messy album-filler that target’s Aguilera’s detractors and is actually a brilliant way to close such a long LP of rampant yelling. Also, ‘Army of Me’ is the less attractive sister of ‘Fighter’ from the ‘Stripped’ album and if ‘Around the World’ is intended to reflect Aguilera’s sex life then I imagine that it is rough, uncomfortable and rather unpleasant. You thought I was going to refer to her as the world that her lover would have to go around, didn’t you?
So, is ‘Lotus’ the comeback album that Aguilera needs at the stage of her career? Unfortunately, she misses the mark in various ways. From her reckless vocal gymnastics that score only threes across the board to her misguided attempts at leading the younger generation to the land of milk, honey and KFC, Aguilera barely earns a passing grade.
‘Lotus’ is actually weaker than ‘Bionic’, despite sounding far more natural than its predecessor. How is that possible? Aguilera is doing what she loves most: screaming until her lungs can’t carry on and boasting about her own supposed greatness. Hey, if nobody else enjoys this album then at least she will.
Standout tracks: ‘Blank Page’, ‘Cease Fire’, ‘Let There Be Love’, ‘Red Kind of Love’ and ‘Empty Words’
Weakest track: ‘Make the World Move (Ft. Cee Lo Green)’
Possible singles: ‘’Empty Words’, ‘Blank Page’, ‘Light Up the Sky’ and ‘Let There Be Love’
The Lava Lizard Rating: 3/5 Stars