Was it really more than ten years ago that Christina Aguilera debuted with “Genie in a Bottle?” The worst part is that I clearly remember the first time I heard her songs on the radio, or the first time I saw the “Genie in a Bottle” video; I’ve been feeling old lately, but this definitely cements the fact that I’m getting old.
Anyway, Aguilera has managed to stand the tests of time. Where her pop princess contemporaries have gotten divorced, fallen off the music radar, gone crazy, or failed to have another successful song, Aguilera has been able to release numerous hit albums as the years have gone by.
After a four-year hiatus, Aguilera’s fourth studio album, Bionic, was released in June 2010. The album debuts a new sound which we’ve yet to hear from Aguilera- there’s less traditional singing, and more stylized production, heavy synthesizers and digitized sounds. Several collaborators help Aguilera achieve this sound, and though there are a few shining spots, most of the album sort of seems like a disorganized mess.
The album begins with “Bionic”, an electronic sounding track which plays as an introduction to the first part of the disc. The song itself doesn’t say much; the chorus is very basic (“Bionic, take it supersonic, eh/I’m bionic; hit you like a rocket, eh-ay-yeh/Bionic, so damn bionic, eh/Gonna get you with my electronic, supersonic rocket, eh”) and the focus is mostly on the heavily synthesized backing music and Aguilera’s computerized vocals. The song is energetic and fun, but in terms of musicianship and lyricism, it definitely falls flat.
Sadly, that seems to be the case with most of the tracks on the first half of the album. Lead single, “Not Myself Tonight” almost falls in horrendously bad territory; sure, I’d dance to it whenever I heard it at the club, but the lyrics are poorly written, and Aguilera almost sounds like she’s just phoning it in while singing the verses and choruses.
Next up is “Woohoo” which features Young Money rapper, Nicki Minaj. I’ve noticed that most people either love or hate this song, which is the attitude I’ve noticed that most people have about Minaj, in general. I’m not particularly fond of the song, myself, but I don’t hate it. The chorus, though a bit ridiculous, is still extremely catchy (“You know you really wanna (hey), wanna taste my/You know you wanna get a peek wanna see my/You know you wanna put your lips where hips are/Kiss on my (woohoo) all over my (woohoo)”), and though the song is pretty raunchy, it’s more fun than offensive. Minaj really only appears during a rap after the second chorus, and though I’m one of the people that like her, I’d have to say that her rap doesn’t add much to the track, and her affiliation is pretty unnecessary, overall.
Finally, a song that I love appears with “Elastic Love.” The Bionic album garnered many comparisons to Lady Gaga, M.I.A. and Santigold, and this track is by far the most derivative, but I still enjoy it. Aguilera and her songwriters (because she surely didn’t pen the song herself- what a shame!), use a rubber band to make an analogy about a relationship(“A rubber band is what I call your love for me/‘Cause it comes and goes and pins me like a trampoline/But all this back and forth is freaky, it’s confusing me/Like a pencil trying to write and you’re erasing me”), and though the lyrics aren’t anything revolutionary, they’re still entertaining.
I’ve alluded to the fact that the album is split into two sections, and though it’s not advertised as such, you definitely get the feeling from listening that the first part of the album is the “new” electronica Christina, while the second part of the album is old-school Aguilera. A quiet, R&B intro titled, “Morning Dessert” plays as a bridge to the next songs. The intro, which is only a minute and a half is one of my favorites on the entire album; Aguilera sounds incredibly seductive as she purrs the sexy lines (“You might be a little late, I don’t think an hour will hurt/Touch me here, touch me there/Lemme give you your morning dessert/I’m not hungry for food, all I want is you”), and the music is relaxing and appropriately hushed for a song about making love in the morning. The track always reminds me of Janet Jackson, particularly during her Velvet Rope era.
“Sex for Breakfast” follows, and isn’t as strong as its predecessor, but still manages to be sensual and another likeable R&B track. While the first songs on the album were clearly more about production, style and sound, these next songs are more about showcasing Aguilera’s vocals and songwriting. “Lift Me Up” is the standard inspirational pop ballad, written by Aguilera’s favorite collaborator Linda Perry(Perry is also responsible for writing Aguilera’s hit song, “Beautiful”.) The song is dull, but Aguilera does sound lovely, and it’s nice to hear stripped down production and actual singing.
One of my favorite artists, Sia, makes three appearances on the album as a songwriter. The first of the three is “All I Need”, a whimsical little ballad, which sounds a lot like some of Sia’s own music. Probably because of this fact, the song is one of the highlights on the album for me- Aguilera doesn’t do much showing off vocally, but she sings the song sweetly and the track is very charming. “I Am” is surprisingly boring, despite the lyrics (“I am timid and/I am oversensitive/I am a lioness/I am tired and defensive/You take me in your arms/And I fall into you/I have insecurities/You show me I am beautiful”); it’s really just the uninspired melody which doesn’t go much of anywhere that becomes the song’s downfall. The third and final Sia collab is “You Lost Me”, Aguilera’s current single. The track is a big, sweeping ballad, and definitely calls to mind some of Aguilera’s older work. I’m a fan of the song, mostly because it’s nice to hear Aguilera’s vocal range and the song highlights it quiet nicely.
It seems, however, for every strong point on the album there’s an equally low point. Latin-flavored “Desnudate” is almost unlistenable in my opinion; the backing music is too busy and the chorus is overly repetitive. “Glam” sounds like a drag queen theme song, and while I have nothing against drag queens, let’s just say that if I wanted to listen to this kind of crap, I would’ve bought Ru Paul’s latest album. “My Girls” is produced by synthpunk band Le Tigre, but the song sounds amateurish and like a b-side to a Peaches album (which makes sense, as the eletronica singer is featured on the song.)
The album comes to a close with “Vanity”, another hit or miss track. Though the song is over-the-top, and a bit corny at times, I personally love it; there’s just something about singing along to lines like, “V is for Vanity/Every time I look at me/I turn myself on” and “Mirror mirror on the wall/Who’s the sexiest of them all?/Never mind, I am”, when you’re getting ready to go out for a night on the town. Aguilera’s two-year-old son, Max, makes an appearance at the end of the song as Aguilera asks, “Who owns the throne?” and he answers, “You do, mommy.” Cute.
As a whole, the Bionic album is a disappointment. It seems that Christina Aguilera is trying too hard to keep up with popular music, and though I do have to commend her for trying to stay relevant, she’s unfortunately done it in a way which makes her seem like a second-rate rip off. Almost all originality is lost, and instead, we’re left with a collection of songs that sound too close to the artists they were inspired by and less like a newly evolved Christina Aguilera album.
2. Not Myself Tonight
3. Woohoo – (featuring Nicki Minaj)
4. Elastic Love
6. Love & Glamour (Intro)
8. Prima Donna
9. Morning Dessert (Intro)
10. Sex for Breakfast
11. Lift Me Up
12. My Heart (Intro)
13. All I Need
14. I Am
15. You Lost Me
16. I Hate Boys
17. My Girls