Loved: “You Lost Me,” “Prima Donna,” “Sex for Breakfast,” “I Am”
Hated: “Bobblehead,” “Elastic Love,” “Vanity”
Overall: If you like techno-dance pop, listen to tracks 1-7/16-21. If you’d like a more familiar Christina, listen to tracks 8-15/22-24. Decent album.
With Christina’s sophomore album, “Stripped,” many assumed until further notice that the entire album would sound like her raunchy hit “Dirrty.” With her latest effort, “Bionic”, it’s a similar effect. If you heard the single “Not Myself Tonight,” you probably assumed that the entire album consists of techno dance-pop. This is only half-true. Christina split the album down the middle between her newly adopted sound (i.e. the techno) and the more familiar.
The dance fever begins with the catchy and acceptable “Bionic.” From there until track 8, is a bunch of dance songs that lack lyrical strength and purpose, which made the album hard to listen to initially. The songs are, at minimum, catchy. Those who don’t care about lyrical substance and just want a bouncy beat will find the songs satisfactory. “Woo Hoo,” featuring Nicki Minaj, is bound to be a single; at least the song has some value production-wise. 80’s pop fans will like “Elastic Love.” “Glam” channels Madonna’s “Vogue” and, dare I say it, a little Gaga. “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” producer Tricky Stewart worked on the aggressive, hip-hop influenced “Prima Donna,” a song that’s sure to be a fun girl anthem. My only beef with that song is that Stewart copied and pasted a riff from Rihanna’s “Hard,” which he also produced. I hate it when producers recycle their tracks, but that’s another story.
After “Donna,” Christina takes a break from her new sound, throwing her older fans a bone. Aguilera gets her Robin Thicke on with the floaty, sultry “Morning Dessert/Sex for Breakfast,” then takes the sensitive and sentimental route. “All I Need,” is a poetic lullaby to her young son, Max. “Lift Me Up” and “I Am” express the need for support during times of vulnerability and the embracing of flaws. I can appreciate “I Am” on soooo many levels. The production, the lyrics and the vocals are all just right. The music is just beautiful, tender and breathtaking (especially on the “stripped” version), it’s well-written, and Aguilera experiments a bit with her vocals. At times, she vocally reminds me of “Chasing Pavements” singer Adele. One of the better things about this album is that it appears that Aguilera has officially learned WHEN to over-sing. If there are any over-singing moments, they’re well placed and fail to annoy. Following “Am” is the dramatic “You Lost Me.” For me, “Lost” is the album’s golden moment. A song about infidelity, “Lost” is musically and vocally emotional and features a “classic” 1950’s sound that “Back to Basics” fans will enjoy. The song reminded me of why I love Christina in the 1st place.
So, by this time on the record, we’ve gotten 2 different feels. For the next 9 tracks (6 of them make up the bonus material), Aguilera somewhat blends the two styles. The winners of the song set are “Birds of Prey,” “Little Dreamer” and “Stronger than Ever.” “Prey” is an enticing song about the evils of having the wrong social circle. Songs that might be describing the dangerous, yet alluring Hollywood crowd never get old. “Little Dreamer” is an ode to a loved one. Just when I thought the days of dance songs with a purpose (ex. Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation) were over, Christina proved otherwise. “Stronger” tells of being a victim of psychological warfare and abuse. Some may grow tired of Aguilera’s songs about loving yourself and abuse, but songs like that will always be needed, and I much rather have songs like that than meaningless tracks like “Not Myself Tonight.” Chicks should love “I Hate Boys,” a “boys get on my nerves” anthem. I can appreciate the sentiment, and the lyrics are humorous, but it’s so campy, that it’s almost immature on Aguilera. I could see Katy Perry doing the song. “Bobblehead” is even worse, and could easily be a Kesha song. Christina went through the trouble of getting recognized as a serious singer/songwriter, only to regress to the sound of a new, gimmicky pop-tart with some of these songs. Chicks will probably also dig “Vanity,” a “hottest chick in town” song dedicated to egotism and arrogance. Just take Beyonce’s “Ego” and add 3 million more degrees. The song turned me off because of its topic, AND because of Aguilera’s need to call herself a bitch. I am SO OVER women calling themselves bitches in songs. Beyonce` did it, Rihanna did it-STOP THE FREAKIN’ MADNESS! No matter what you do, you can’t turn the word around. If you still get mad when people call you that within a certain context, you haven’t changed it. Stop it! I digress….
It’s so hard to say whether the album is good or bad as a whole. It has its great moments and its shaky ones. How did Christina pull of dance music? In my humble opinion, not well. To a degree, dance music is like a shoe that doesn’t fit for Aguilera. I can appreciate her exploring a different genre, but it all seems so regressive, like she’s back-tracking instead of moving forward. Like I said earlier, she’s worked hard to establish and prove herself as a serious artist, and it doesn’t make sense to go the gimmicky pop-tart route again when you’ve gotten so far away from it. Fortunately enough for this album, she’s got some good material to balance everything out. The mix of material is smart because it appeals to both new fans that like dance music (if they like her stuff) and her older fans that like her prior sound. Christina shouldn’t have tried to play catch up. It wasn’t necessary. She says in “Vanity”: “let’s not forget who’s on the throne.” It looks like she may have forgotten herself, trying to “update” her sound when she didn’t have to.
All and all, the album is a decent effort broken up into 2 styles. You’re bound to like at least one of those sides. Taste both flavors and see which one you like.