Subtlety not being part of Christina Aguilera’s vocabulary, she trades the retro-swing of Back to Basics for the future-pop of Bionic, receiving assists from a roster that reads like a who’s-who of progressive pop in 2010: M.I.A., Le Tigre, Peaches, and John Hill & Switch, known for their work with Santigold. But like the half-cyborg/half-diva illustration of the album cover, this revamp is only partial. Aguilera hedges her bets by adding a ballad from old friend Linda Perry, gets Tricky Stewart to produce a trio of cuts, drafts Polow da Don and Focus… to produce some heavy and slow R&B, respectively, letting enough air into the machines to reassure hesitant fans that she hasn’t abandoned her roots.
After spending more than a decade being only passingly entertained by either, it’s not like I really want to keep defining Christina Aguilera by comparing her minxy Betty to Britney Spears’s voracious Veronica. But Christina makes it so easy when she snaps up the beat from Britney Bitch’s “Gimme More” for the leadoff single of Bionic, her long-awaited follow-up to 2006’s Back to Basics. She makes it easy when, in said leadoff, “Not Myself Tonight,” she dares to utter the word Britney only spelled out in the still puzzling single-entendre of “If U Seek Amy.
You can't fault Christina Aguilera's desire to reinvent herself. Last time out, on 2006's Back to Basics, she was decorously modelling herself on Jean Harlow and purveying vaguely retro soul. Four years on, it's all change again. On the one hand, that means the reappearance of our old friend Xtina, scantily clad vocalist obsessed with telling the world she likes having it off in that bullish way peculiar to artists who began their careers forced to project an impossibly squeaky-clean image.
Much has been made of the peacocking crop of next-gen pop stars who have risen to take Christina Aguilera’s place in the four years since she released her last studio album, 2006’s Back to Basics — especially a certain pantsless, zeitgeist-lathering Lady. That may explain the glut of cool-girl collaborators (M.I.A., Le Tigre, Sia, Nicki Minaj) on Aguilera’s latest, though in the end, the 29-year-old singer’s biggest adversary isn’t Billboard’s late-aughts parade of Gagas, Katys, and Rihannas, but her own bad habits. From the earliest Britney-versus-Xtina days, Aguilera’s vocal supremacy has always been her multi-octave trump card.
What to do. What to do. What to do. You’re a former Pop Princess, a Mother and Wife; you’ve successfully reinvented yourself twice over. Then a new pretender enters the scene. A Lady whose knack for stylised provocation matches her insane vocal abilities. She’s blonde, ahead of the game and ….
After a four-year hiatus, Christina—or “Xtina”—is back with 18 tracks that find the artist straddling the line between Lady Gaga and Regina Spektor, with a smattering of the overindulgent schmaltz that has become synonymous with the majority of the post-Mickey Mouse Club cohort of female pop singers. Despite giving birth to a son, Max (whose pictures she unabashedly sold to People for a reported 1. 5 million big ones), Christina shows no signs here that family life has made her any less prone to fits of flagrant sexual exhibitionism.
Pop juggernaut Christina Aguilera is copying Lady Gaga. Or so, everyone thinks in the midst of a futuristic, electro-S&M era that revolves around the 90’s-techno/Madonna recycler. Oh, and a multitude of artists are swirling like vultures, eyes bulging red with disdain (M.I.A., Katy Perry, just to name a few) at Gaga’s quick, chess-like moves into pop queendom.
Christina Aguilera doesn't sound confident on Bionic. Sure, her formidable pipes are as strong as ever, but on every song she comes across as a pale imitation of someone else. This is not very becoming of a singer of her stature. It's as if Lady Gaga's meteoric rise to fame has shaken Aguilera to the extent that she feels she has to catch up.