Christina Aguilera has been in the spotlight many times due to her drastic musical and visual style changes that have surprised more than one. Aguilera has been praised for both her audacity and vocals, while being criticized for those exact same reasons (ex. being accused of having a negative attitude and over-singing). Through the criticism and changes, Aguilera has seen much success, but here lately, things seem to be in a strange spot with underperforming albums and a creative direction that seems unclear. The theme of her latest album “Lotus” is that she’s an unbreakable flower that rises even in the worst conditions, but is she really unbreakable?
In her debut "Genie in a Bottle" era, she was an ultra-clean, hit-making, pop princess machine fashioned after her predecessor and contemporary, Britney Spears. This design being the choice of her record label, RCA, Aguilera naturally didn’t want this. Taking advantage of increased creative freedom for her second album, she changed completely and said goodbye to the “genie.” Her music, look and even her fan base evolved to what I like to call a freedom anthem: “Stripped.” Controversial, sexually charged and yet, vulnerable, “Stripped” was an empowering album that spoke to the outcasted and ridiculed, and remains the favorite album of many (myself included). Another chameleon-like change came with "Back to Basics." “Xtina” (the moniker Aguilera took on during “Stripped) turned into Baby Jane; a classy, vintage diva inspired by the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s music that she loved. It was a risky project, but absolutely marvelous in content.
Christina turned the valve and let her creativity flow until “Bionic” was released. We all know the album was a commercial failure, and RCA likely had a lot to do with that. Some songs were total masterpieces, while others tried too hard to fit into the electro-pop mood of 2010. She was in need of a rebound. “Lotus" received mixed reviews, but fans seem to agree that it’s an extraordinary album that deserved better promotion. In conjunction, my opinion is that the album has a wonderful concept and includes both lyrical works of art and commercial songs that could've been chart toppers with proper marketing. However, the album does leave you wanting more. All of her previous albums had a theme that took you on a satisfying journey, but 80% of "Lotus" is dedicated to addressing haters and gives you a sense of paranoia. Aguilera claims to be unfazed and doesn’t care what people say, yet she sings to them in 8 songs? The other 20% are songs about sex and love (read the review by J.Says here). Fascinatingly, not only did there seem to be little interest in the project by RCA, but by Aguilera herself, which leads some to think she might be about to break ties with her label. Considering the arguable neglect of Aguilera’s music that started with the “Bionic” album, a separation might be a positive thing (she reportedly gave up her coveted spot on NBC’S “The Voice” to concentrate on her work).
Now, the main question is: what direction should Christina go in now? Right now, she gives the image of loving her shape (she’s constantly scrutinized about her weight), her music and being in a safe place. She’s so unpredictable that it’s almost impossible to foresee if she will follow a more commercial path, or maybe, what I would love the most, an experimental album in the style of “Stronger That Ever” or “Birds of Prey” (from “Bionic”). Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
--Could Aguilera’s change in producers be at the center of her successes and failures? Read her portion of “5 Artists Who Are Only as Good as Their Producers”
--To see other “Curious Case” articles, click Aguilera’s photo above.