By Nick Manteris · 0 Comments · Leave a Comment
Christina Aguilera claims that her personal experiences shape each album that she releases and that she captures those characteristics to use in her music. She has become an actress, a wife and a mother in the four years between Back to Basics and Bionic, so one might expect all kinds of changes in her music. The biggest change is actually just a return to a modern pop and R&B sound as opposed to the last album’s vintage blues, jazz and soul from the 20s, 30s and 40s. Maybe she means that the mother and wife aspects of her life are apparent in her music when her baby-daddy husband and her child make appearances on a couple of the tracks…that does still count, right? Another change seems to be her use of language…she says “bitch” more times in one song than in everything else she has recorded up until now. (I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s just an observation.)
Christina once again employs a multitude of collaborators to help write and produce the music on Bionic. Many of them are recognizable by name, but a few are not…though you might already know some of their work. “Not Myself Tonight” is co-written by Claude Kelly – possibly best know for Miley’s “Party in the USA” – and it’s the best choice for a first single, being the best song on the album. “Woohoo” is a so-so track, but the subject matter increases its appeal slightly…and it has Xtina using the term “cake” in a place where most others would probably use the word “pie.” (She uses “cake” in an equally suggestive way in 2006’s “Nasty Naughty Boy,” for the record. I bet she just doesn’t like pie.) “Elastic Love” was co-written by someone named “Mathangi Arulpragasam” – and it sounds exactly like something that you might find on an M.I.A. album. (I thought Aguilera was trying to rip off M.I.A.’s sound before I realized that M.I.A. was actually a co-writer of the track.) If you like M.I.A. you might like this one. (I don’t care for either.) Tricky Stewart (producer of “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and “Umbrella”) joins Kelly for the next few tracks: “Desnudate,” “Glam” and “Prima Donna.” (Time to digress: Does Christina even know the non-opera-related definition of “prima donna?”) “Beautiful” writer Linda Perry only shows up here for the first of the (average) slower songs on the album, “Lift Me Up.” The album stays in this slower mode for the next few (average) songs, “All I Need,” “I Am” and “You Lost Me,” all of which were co-written by Sia. Claude Kelly joins the list of contributors on “I Hate Boys,” the only other better-than-average song on this release. Then Le Tigre and Peaches are both extremely disappointing on “My Girls.” (I’ve never been a huge fan of either, but both artists have some songs that I really like and Le Tigre was completely awesome when I saw them live.) Hopefully “Vanity” will help Christina’s fans with their self-images in a similar way that I think “Beautiful” helped people, because – without some sort of positive spin – it just makes her sound really stuck-up…even if that seems to be part of the point of the song.
The Deluxe edition of Bionic comes with five more songs (six if you get it from iTunes!) and a few more guest artists: Santigold contributes on “Monday Morning” and the skippable “Bobblehead.” Cathy Dennis (co-writer of “Toxic” and “I Kissed a Girl”) and Ladytron help on “Birds of Prey” and the super-sweet, iTunes-only “Little Dreamer.” Sia returns for a “stripped” version of “I Am” and “Stronger than Ever,” one of the three truly good songs in this new batch of material from Aguilera. (Here’s a question: was “Stronger than Ever” specifically left off the main album to entice people to buy the Deluxe version of Bionic?) Goldfrapp was rumored to have contributed to the album as well, but none of those tracks made it to either edition of Bionic.
Bionic is not a revolutionary (in the context of the artist) release like Stripped, and it’s not a drastic shift in sound like Back to Basics – though, technically, it is a drastic shift from Back to Basics to something like her previous sound, but that’s not really the same. Christina has an unbelievable voice, but she still hasn’t lived up to its potential. She’s produced some good songs (some even border on really good) but she relies too much on the “finger wave” style of singing – or “oversinging” as many people like to call it – and she’s never released anything that is simply “excellent.” (The effect that “Beautiful” has had on the world surpasses the actual quality of the song itself and it makes Christina a much more important artist than her oeuvre suggests. And, btw, thank you, Linda Perry.) All that said, this release scores close to the same range as her past two albums (I can’t make comparisons to her debut since I’ve still never listened to that one completely.) and it’s probably a reflex buy if you’re already a fan of Xtina. For the rest of you it’s difficult to say: maybe just get the three good tracks…or wait and hope and wish that someone will finally make a dance remix that doesn’t suck. (I, for one, won’t be holding my breath.)