Christina Aguilera is done being a pop princess, and she wants the world to know it.
Her contemporaries have done the same: All one needs to do is look at Rihanna’s Good Girl Gone Bad reinvention or Britney Spears’ descent into “It’s Britney, b-tch” to see that the hottest new thing in pop music is to break all the rules.
And in order to do this, a certain recipe needs to be followed: Sing about drinking or partying, sing about sex and sing about how cool it is to be cool.
Aguilera burst onto the scene in the ’90s, dazzling the masses with her infectious cotton candy fluff. It’d be difficult to find a soul around today who cannot recite the lyrics to “Genie in a Bottle.”
But then one day, Aguilera decided to get dirty and released Stripped, the album that showed the world just how grown-up she had become (and how good she looks in leather chaps).
In recent years, Aguilera has become less known for her music and more for her personal life. And with her recent stint as a coach on the uber-popular singing competition show The Voice, her latest album Lotus should have been her claim back to legitimate fame. Unfortunately, the singer attempts to roar like a lion but only sounds like a mouse.
“Just a Fool” features her Voice colleague, country crooner Blake Shelton. Sometimes genre-hybrid songs make total sense — see Nelly and Tim McGraw’s collaboration on “Over and Over” — and other times, like in “Just a Fool,” the end result is just a mess. With lyrics like “Turn the music up a little bit louder / Just gotta get past the midnight hour,” the song easily falls into kitsch territory.
After listening to the first song, one might assume that the album will be all about heartbreak and moving on — after all, the songstress just ended a messy divorce and constantly deals with tabloid fodder about her weight. Unfortunately, Aguilera throws away such easy inspiration in favor of second-rate dance tunes, including one featuring her other Voice castmate Cee-Lo Green (“Make the World Move”). Some of these tunes are rather catchy, like the booty-shaking “Let There Be Love” and “Your Body,” but then others simply fall flat (“Army of Me”).
One bright spot is “Light Up the Sky,” a sort of Katy Perry-esque “Firework” that manages to showcase Aguilera’s bright vocals with a backing track that doesn’t drown her out with unnecessary beats. For a few brief minutes, you become almost transfixed by Aguilera’s mantra: “Wipe away the tears from our eyes / We’ll light up the sky / And we have wings we can fly / We can be kings you and I.” And when the chorus fades into soulful verses, one can only hope that Aguilera is getting in touch with her deeper side.
But that’s where the success ends. Pretty soon Aguilera is back to rhyming lyrics about no one getting the best of her.
Aguilera’s voice is too good to waste, but that’s all Lotus is: a waste of time, a waste of work, a waste of words. For some reason, Aguilera refused to rely on her golden voice in favor of dizzying arrangements and head-throbbing rhythms, something that, say, the equally talented and respected Adele would never do. Note to Aguilera: When your voice is that good, you don’t need all that added junk.
This is Lotus’ main dilemma. What kind of album does Aguilera want this to be? What exactly is she trying to say? There is no cohesive narrative running throughout the whole album. She goes from being heartbroken to wanting to dance to hating those who hate her.
If only Aguilera came up with some idea — any idea — of what she was hoping to accomplish. It’s such a shame considering Aguilera’s voice reigns as one of the best of all time — and no one can dispute that. But if she continues to churn out music that dumbs her down, her spotlight will unfortunately be dimmed.
“Lotus” refers to not only a plant, but also a fruit in Greek mythology that makes the consumer forget anything that happened before eating it.
Ironically, you don’t need a lotus fruit to forget about Aguilera’s Lotus. The album takes care of that for you.