Christina Aguilera has been absent from the music scene for almost 4 years, with her last release being 2006’s ‘Back to Basics’. Now the vocal powerhouse has returned with her new album, ‘Bionic’, equipped with new sounds, thanks to a diverse assembly of some of the industry’s most sought-after producers and songwriters. However, despite the claims by her critics that the LP represents her attempt to emulate Pop sensation Lady GaGa, the record actually showcases a wide variety of musical styles that bear little similarity to her chart counterpart. In fact, on ‘Bionic’, Aguilera finds herself imitating almost everyone except GaGa.
The 18-track LP starts of strong with the title track which was written by Aguilera (who co-wrote almost every song on the album), Kalenna Harper, John Hill, and David Taylor. It is with this song that listeners are able to hear the futuristic appeal that Aguilera has been promising her fans since 2008. Nevertheless, her vocal delivery has a striking resemblance to the work done by Santigold and could have easily been a bonus track on her 2008 self-titled project. Still, the track is held together with tight production and underscored with an ingenious beat, making the record one of the strongest pieces on the album and it is clear to see why it was once in the running to be the lead single.
Other stand-out tracks on the album include the Latin-flavoured ‘Desnudate’ and the Madonna-inspired ‘Glam’, which were both produced by Tricky Stewart. The former is by far the most infectious record of the entire album; reinforced by Aguilera’s astounding vocal performance and an unforgettable hook that should make it a major force on the charts, especially with her long forgotten Spanish-speaking audience.
The album’s 1st single, ‘Not Myself Tonight’, should not be overlooked though. Despite its failure to achieve chart success – probably because of its lack of an apparent hook – Polow Da Don’s brilliant production is hard to deny, particularly at the beat-driven climax. The Ester Dean-produced ‘Vanity’ also deserves a notable mention for it’s contemporary Pop production and hilariously arrogant lyrics – “V is for vanity. Every time I look at me, I turn myself on.”
Yet, with a tracklist as extensive as the one on ‘Bionic’, there were bound to be several missteps. Aguilera finds herself being overly manipulated by M.I.A. who co-wrote ‘Elastic Love’. Indeed, similar to the album’s title track, Aguilera sounds like she is trying to imitate someone else, rather than being herself. Although this showcases her dynamism as a singer, she goes too far and sounds almost unrecognisable. Other low points on the LP include the dated ‘Prima Donna’, ‘I Hate Boys’ – which sounds like it was a leftover from her ‘Stripped’ project’ – ‘My Girls’, the abrasively cocky ‘Love & Glamour (Intro)’ and ‘Morning Desert (Intro)’ which, while a pleasant listen, has a remarkable similarity to Mariah Carey’s ‘The Impossible’ (though not nearly as interesting).
Aguilera stumbles again on the recently announced 2nd single, ‘Woo Hoo’, where guest performer Nicki Minaj completely steals the spotlight. In fact, Minaj’s delivery on the song is so strong that Aguilera may be thought of as the featured act instead.
In the end, Aguilera shines brightest on the ballads. From the powerfully delivered ‘You Lost Me’ to the vocally astounding ‘I Am’ and ‘All I Need’, her co-writers Sia Furler and Samuel Dixon bring out the right mix of raw emotion and restraint. Moreover, on the only track that Aguilera did not co-write, ‘Lift Me Up’, Linda Perry manages to draw a passionate performance out of Aguilera while keeping her overwhelming pipes in check.
All in all, ‘Bionic’ serves as one of Aguilera’s strongest works and is definitely one of the best Pop releases of 2010 thus far. While her voice has certainly suffered some wear and tear since her last album, she manages to keep her listeners engaged (for the most part) throughout the album. Those who are eager to hear Aguilera engaging in her signature screaming best look elsewhere because it seems that she has finally learned that bigger doesn’t always mean better.