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Classic X-Tina Moves From Pop To Less Defined Genre

For The Heights

Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

From her sweetheart pop persona during those golden ’90s “Genie in a Bottle” days to the “Xtina” unleashed on 2002’s Stripped, Christina Aguilera has certainly branded herself as an icon of American pop culture. Celebrating recent successes, including co-judging NBC’s The Voice and releasing her newest single, “Your Body,” Aguilera has used her veteran status as an artist to further her career instead of stepping out of the spotlight. Aguilera calls Lotus a “celebratory record” that she hopes will inspire a generation of younger performers who may not be familiar with her previous hits. It is the fresh energy that the pop star devotes to the album that makes it stand out from her previous work, as she makes it relevant to a new kind of listener.

Despite this hype, Lotus’ opening title track falls short, sounding overly auto-tuned and not nearly memorable enough to convey the ideals of growth and clarity that her album represents. Lotus takes a turn for the better with the next track, “Army of Me,” which the artist calls “a Fighter 2.0,” inspired by her newest fans who watch her on The Voice. Aguilera demonstrates her signature vocal range by repeating, “We’re gonna rise up,” though lyrics like “Now that I’m wiser / Now that I’m stronger / Now that I’m a fighter” seem oddly reminiscent of the Xtina we’ve always known.

Since no Aguilera album would be complete without a good dose of dance tracks, the artist more than delivers by collaborating with Voice co-judge Cee-Lo Green to produce “Make the World Move,” a catchy song with inspirational lyrics like “Turn up the love / Turn down the hate.” The overarching themes of positivity and renewal make the track seem like something one might hear in a Coke or iPod commercial—where it will most likely end up.

Yet another energetic track is “Let There Be Love,” a poppy tune that celebrates letting go of the past and enjoying the moment. Much like “Your Body,” “Let There Be Love” provides a great beat for dancing at a club or getting pumped up for a workout. These songs are meant to be cranked up and blasted through the speakers, helping to balance out Lotus’ reflective nature.

On “Blank Page,” one of the album’s few slow-paced tracks, Aguilera explores her own vulnerability, musing on her inner strength to find closure in difficult situations and ultimately make peace. The piano-driven melody showcases the emotional power of Aguilera’s voice, much like “Beautiful” from Stripped. The haunting words “I am a blank page waiting for you to bring me to life / I am a blank page waiting for life to start” provide Lotus with a lot more heart than its opening tracks might allude to.

Lotus ends with “Just a Fool,” featuring other Voice co-judge Blake Shelton, and while some listeners may not devote enough time to hear all 13 songs on the album, this is the track worth listening to. Shelton’s sweet country charm meshes well with Aguilera’s smooth vocals, and the two hit perfect harmony at the crescendo, singing in unison about lost love. “Just a Fool” is catchy, heartfelt, and definitely a standout.

The deluxe version of Lotus, available on iTunes, offers three additional tracks and a remix of “Your Body,” though all are available for individual purchase. “Shut Up,” the last of these songs, seems entirely out of place on the album and features a cathartic slew of expletives. For all of the messages of self-love and acceptance Aguilera offers her listeners, this track certainly doesn’t align with her pearls of wisdom.

With her pink hair streaks, Aguilera may not have lost her edgy side entirely, but Lotus clearly displays her departure from decades past. Her new music makes it hard to place her into one particular musical genre, giving the album a unique lasting quality that demonstrates Aguilera’s ability to transform herself according to the times. Don’t be so quick to dismiss Lotus because of the singer’s millennium heyday—it doesn’t look like the artist formerly known as Xtina is going anywhere soon.

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