Love her or hate her, pop music needs Christina Aguilera. In an era of synthesizers and Call Me Maybes, it’s rare a vocalist like Aguilera even makes it onto the radio, much less endures for a decade. On her seventh studio release, Lotus, Aguilera is in a rare position to fuse superior musical ability with modern pop production—a task that this album does not take as seriously as it should.
While a vast improvement from 2010’s Bionic that all but masked Aguilera’s voice with tepid club beats, Lotus can’t seem to find a consistent sound, melding pop numbers with bluesy rock anthems. The album at times feels like a natural outgrowth of her strongest effort, 2002’s rock-soul fusion, Stripped, but caves to the pressure of commercial numbers every few tracks.
The chief problem is the myriad of producers who each contribute a different style. It’s almost as if Aguilera booked every producer with a smash from the past three years, including Max Martin (Britney Spears), Alex da Kid (B.o.B) and Supa Dups (Drake).
“Red Hot Kinda Love” has Max Martin written all over it, perhaps the album’s standout pop hit, but one that could have easily been on Britney Spears’s Femme Fatale. The same goes for Lotus‘s first single, “Your Body.”
After admitting that this album was inspired by her work on NBC’s The Voice, Aguilera curiously stated on her VEVO channel that she was finally “secure enough to embrace being a pop star.” An odd comment coming from the singer who spent much of the last decade dirtying, piercing and wailing against the sugary image built for her breakout single, 1999’s “Genie in a Bottle.”
Perhaps what Aguilera is getting at is essentially the travesty of her career: that even individuals with superior talent and stylistic diversity must eventually become pop stars, stuck infusing smut with soul. A truth that makes tracks like “Red Hot Kinda Love” only ephemerally fun.
Read more: Popular Critic