When life throws curveballs, it can do some compelling things in the hearts and minds of artists. In the case of Christina Aguilera, her lack of focus finds itself benefitting greatly from a series of personal changes — some good, some not-so-good — and her latest record serves up the proof.
While albums like Bionic and Back to Basics struggled thematically (and in other ways), Lotus finds the artist sounding more mature and yet more energized than perhaps ever before. The vocal superwoman has learned to rein it in, replacing excess with moderation. It’s her best work.
Aguilera’s seventh studio album certainly has tones of her time on “The Voice,” as both Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton show up for guest spots. But rather than distracting her, Aguilera’s time on the television show seems to have granted her focus and a better sense of musical timing. It’s also informed her worldview, opening her mind up to the fact that discipline can be a blessing.
Lotus follows through nicely. It is generally comprised of dance-pop tunes, with some serious beat-making and production creating some intensely entertaining musical moments. The mandatory ballads are present, of course, and Aguilera never met a spotlight she didn’t like. But she practices more control and happily resists the urge to bend her way through a detached series of notes.
After an intro track, “Army of Me” blasts into view. Aguilera has described the track as the second part of “Fighter” and that seems apt. The song is conceptually good and she sings it straight, delving into the pounding beat and becoming part of the piece. She displays sublime poise by serving the greater good.
The first single, “Your Body,” is all kinds of cool. It’s one of Aguilera’s most memorable songs in recent years. She approaches the verses with confidence, doubling down on the stutter-beats and owning every word. She conducts business like a hardened pro, assured of her sexuality and vocal prowess. The coolness fits; she has nothing to prove and blows the lights out all the same. And the “I’ll finish off on my own” line? Yeow.
“Let There Be Love” pulses with a club beat and features a nice set of vocals. Aguilera ventures into her upper registry, but it’s not bulky or overwrought. She sounds like every bit the Donna Summer disco queen and owns the neon night.
That’s not to say that there aren’t missteps on Lotus. “Red Hot Kinda Love” isn’t the sex bomb it feels like it should be. It’s a frenetic number that jams out the melodic core thanks to a mash of effects and unwieldy keyboards. And “Circles” is Aguilera’s compulsory “attitude” song. Sadly, she comes off silly.
For the most part, however, Lotus is a hit. The ballads are crisp and well-sung, while the disco shoes are a good fit. Aguilera has profited greatly from her life experiences and her decision to finally bring them to her artistic harvest is the right move. She’s got a hell of a road ahead, so let’s hope this album is a sign of things to come.