(3 Biebers out of 5)
Christina Aguilera has gone for the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach on her first album in 4 years, the aptly titled Bionic, featuring blips and beeps and what sounds like machines battling humans to the ground before having dirty, dirty sex with them. She’s been away for four years, busy being a mother and reapplying pillarbox red lipstick every few minutes (probably), and Bionic is her effort to prove that, in today’s age of GaGa and GaGa-ites, she is still relevant, still exciting, and still worthy of the love and adoration she received during her Dirrty heyday. And is she?
Well…no, not exactly. She still has the voice, that’s for sure, but what made Aguilera stand out from the Britneys and the um…Mandy Moores of the world, was that she always seemed like she knew what she wanted. Even when she was trapped under her record company’s thumb, she did things differently enough to avoid failing miserably like all the other Britney-wannabes that saturated the pop landscape in the late 1990s, like warbling in Spanish and performing acoustic versions of her songs on TV in order to show off her impressive voice. But here, she sounds confused – unsure whether to stick to what she knows (vocal gymnastics) or go with what GaGa, Ke$ha, and the like are doing so well (singing about being drunk, and getting naked).
The problem with Bionic is that, after Back To Basics, where Aguilera imitated her idols and stated that she was making the music she really wanted to make, it’s hard to accept her sudden backtrack to the sexually-explicit, more mainstream, urban leanings of Stripped. Though comparisons to GaGa are inevitable (and beginning to get old), you can’t help but wonder if, during her 4 year hiatus, Aguilera looked at the changing pop music scene and thought that to be successful again after the singles from Back To Basics more or less bombed, she would have to ape those currently doing much better than her. She sounds like she’s caught in a dilemma she doesn’t quite know how to solve – does she go back to Stripped-era anthems, does she become a GaGa/Madonna clone, or does she capitalise on the involvement of M.I.A, Sia, and Peaches and go too cool for school? As a result, the album sounds very disjointed, and messy, and as if neither Christina herself, or the many producers involved quite knew what they were doing, or what the goal for the end product was.
Christina’s voice will always be her saviour, meaning that vacuous, empty songs such as the lead single Not Myself Tonight will always be made so much better by the fact that the girl can really, really sing. In fact, her voice stands out more here than it has done in the past thanks to the restraint she shows on songs such as I Am, which would have been ruined by her usual oversinging shtick. I Am, is possibly the best song on the album, and was written by Sia, meaning that it is of course a delicate, twinkling ballad, and it suits Christina’s voice perfectly.
I Am is the highlight of the five ballads that are placed, rather mistakenly, all together towards the end of the album. They are a welcome break from the aural equivalent of Christina waving her crotch in your face, giving the album some depth and humanity while still remaining sexual and sensual. You get the feeling while listening to them that they are closer to the ‘real’ Christina than the yelling and bragging of songs like Prima Donna, but then sadly we’re reminded again that Christina is SEXY AND HOT AND LIKE, A LESBIAN LOL in the three closing songs – all of which feel dated, devoid of originality and energy. I Hate Boys sounds like an attempt to mix the sassiness of Katy Perry with the catchiness of Gwen Stefani’s Hollaback Girl, but it fails miserably, instead it sounds like something Alexandra Burke would jump at the chance of recording, which says it all, really.
Bionic is not a bad album, really. It’s tiresome to listen to Aguilera proclaiming her sexuality in such a lewd and obvious way, and shouting about how amazing she is while calling everyone ‘bitches’ gets old very quickly, but the good tracks are really very good, it’s just a shame that when they’re bad, they’re really bad.
I Am – such a lovely song
Woohoo – so bad its good
Bionic – robotic, futuristic, brilliant.