According to Greek legend those who eat the fruit of the lotus find themselves lulled by a satiated forgetfulness. Surely after Bionic’s disappointment, Christina Aguilera hopes that will be the case with her latest offering. Unfortunately Lotus isn’t enough for this once trailblazing pop star.
Part of the Mickey Mouse Club pop explosion that dominated the late 90s and early 2000s, Aguilera’s self-titled debut album was a little uneven. While her counterparts were pursuing the production skills of Max Martin and company, she came back a fighter with her follow-up Stripped- opting for her brand confessional pop with heavy R&B and hip-hop influences.
After Stripped’s success, Aguilera took some time off, finally returning with Back to Basics, an album that heralded the jazz era of the roaring 20s. While an experimental leap for Aguilera it was critically acclaimed, solidifying Aguilera’s position as a pop pioneer.
Since, Aguilera has suffered a panned acting debut, a failed marriage, an arrest, a flopped album and countless other tabloid mishaps but the hope has remained that Aguilera could once again attain her former glory. While Lotus has specks of glory, it remains largely an album that sounds like Aguilera took a lesson from her pop contemporaries instead of being the teacher she once was.
“Lotus Intro”, opens with the sprightly production of Ellie Goulding but is quickly victimized by length with a repetitive mantra that would’ve served as effectively if sung once.
“Army of Me”, a track that Aguilera affectionately has referred to as “Fighter 2.0”, alone is one of the stronger album cuts, but listeners will tire of the military/war metaphors and marching drum beats by album’s end.
The album’s next three tracks “Red Hot Kinda Love”, “Make the World Move” and “Your Body” underwhelm. Cee-Lo guests on “Make the World Move”, an anthem track that emptily asks the world to “turn up the love” and “turn down the hate” and unconvincingly borrows from Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”. Aside from “Crazy”, Cee-Lo doesn’t have an impressive pop pedigree; after the success of “Moves like Jagger”, Adam Levine might have been the smarter choice.
Lotus’ strongest tracks lie in the middle of the album. “Let There Be Love”, a Max Martin-produced banger, successfully imitates radio’s current DJ-pop formula and has huge single potential. Ballads “Sing for Me” and “Blank Page” (a Sia-penned track meant for Leona Lewis) showcase Aguilera at her best . . . vulnerable. Aguilera’s tendency to oversing, sometimes distracts from Lotus, but these ballads prove that sometimes less is more.
The rest of Lotus suffers from pop star schizophrenia as Aguilera does her best Rihanna impersonation on “Circles” and “Cease Fire”. As a vague foray into country, “Just a Fool” featuring Blake Shelton closes the album. Its pop-country subject matter is mangled by awful production and by song’s end, Aguilera dwarves Shelton’s voice- dousing the track’s inspiration ultimately making Aguilera more Jessica Simpson-country than Kelly Clarkson.
With hits and misses, Lotus won’t propel Aguilera back the forefront of pop music. Instead of her rebirth bringing forth a new Aguilera, it birthed a pop music doppelgänger. Perhaps a rushed effort to capitalize on her relevancy, Aguilera might need to stay on The Voice to continue having a voice in pop music.
Album Grade: C