Review : Christina Aguilera - Bionic
AllmusicSubtlety not being part of Christina Aguilera’s vocabulary, she trades the retro-swing of Back to Basics for the future-pop of Bionic, receiving assists from a roster that reads like a who’s-who of progressive pop in 2010: M.I.A., Le Tigre, Peaches, and John Hill & Switch, known for their work with Santigold. But like the half-cyborg/half-diva illustration of the album cover, this revamp is only partial. Aguilera hedges her bets by adding a ballad from old friend Linda Perry, gets Tricky Stewart to produce a trio of cuts, drafts Polow da Don and Focus… to produce some heavy and slow R&B, respectively, letting enough air into the machines to reassure hesitant fans that she hasn’t abandoned her roots. All this hesitancy means that for as many risks as it takes, Bionic doesn’t feel daring. Apart from the stuttering opener of the title track and glassy chill of “Elastic Love,” notably the two Hill & Switch productions, this never delivers the future shock it promises, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the robot-diva hybrids are often interesting even when they stumble, as they do on “WooHoo,” its incessant title loop piercing like a dental drill. Exhibit A in Xtina’s curious tin ear for sex, “WooHoo” doesn’t work as temptation, not when the chorus come-on is “licky licky yum yum,” but her crassness is no longer alienating as it was on Stripped; it’s simply part of her persona, just like her shameless narcissism, showcased on the closing “Vanity,” where she gets her kid to confirm that she’s the greatest of them all. This triumphant self-possession comes so naturally to Christina that it’s hard not to wish that she acted so boldly throughout Bionic, letting the entirety of the record be as distinctly odd as its best moments. Frankly, the deluxe edition of Bionic does suggest what the album could have been: it’s supplemented by four bonus songs that are wildly imaginative, whether it’s the clattering, chanting “Bobblehead,” the cool synth glide of “Birds of Prey,” the perfect new wave pop of “Monday Morning,” or Sia’s mournful ballad “Stronger Than Ever.” In their place on the album proper are competent, relatively colorless club odes to fashion and fabulousness and Perry’s boring inspirational “Lift Me Up,” songs that play to Aguilera’s persona without inhabiting it. The rest of Bionic — not just the hipster flirtations and Sia’s trio of richly ruminative AAA ballads, but the tracks directly within Aguilera’s wheelhouse, like Tricky Stewart’s wildly successful, slinky “Desnudate,” and the sultry slow burner “Sex for Breakfast” — find Christina not playing to expectations but simply acting as a natural diva and is all the more compelling for it....full text
LatimesblogsOn "Elastic Love," the fourth cut on "Bionic," Christina Aguilera's new set of postmodern future-pop, the vocalist sings in monotone and then stretches her voice over a seductively lashing beat from British producer Switch. His frequent collaborator, M.I.A., also appears on the track, though it's nearly impossible to tell whether it's her or Aguilera singing on any given verse.
This should signal how far Aguilera wants to wander from her traditional reputation as the ratty-tatty diva of vocal runs, or her spell as a piano bar chanteuse. Say what you want about M.I.A.'s Maya Arulpragasam — and this is not meant as another order of fries in the overblown Trufflegate saga — but vocal power has never been her strong suit.
Which isn't to say that Aguilera's voice doesn't have some obvious showcases on "Bionic." "Lift Me Up," an "American Idol"-ready ballad written by old pal Linda Perry, is a classic demonstration of the singer's range from tender to throaty. But for the most part — and in the album's most successful vein — Aguilera plays a hyper-sexed lover bot ready to tie you to the bed posts rather than tie your ears into knots with a well-executed legato....full text
SlantmagazineAfter spending more than a decade being only passingly entertained by either, it's not like I really want to keep defining Christina Aguilera by comparing her minxy Betty to Britney Spears's voracious Veronica. But Christina makes it so easy when she snaps up the beat from Britney Bitch's "Gimme More" for the leadoff single of Bionic, her long-awaited follow-up to 2006's Back to Basics. She makes it easy when, in said leadoff, "Not Myself Tonight," she dares to utter the word Britney only spelled out in the still puzzling single-entendre of "If U Seek Amy." She really makes it easy when she tries to one-up the Playskool procreation balladry of Britney's "My Baby" by actually prefacing her own musical version of mom jeans, "All I Need," with a few vocalizations from her toddler son Max.
Unfortunately, it's her similarities with Brit that give Tina her humanity. Because the differences—her vocal showboating, her too-careful balancing act between club bangers and power ballads, her conceptual rebound from Back to Basics's retro into Bionic's futurism—all confirm her as a living, humping, belting calculation. (She doesn't help matters when she agrees to slap cover art on the new album depicting her as a jigsaw Robotron with more mechanized cogs spinning behind those pouty lips than Androids have apps.)
On the surface, Bionic is as efficient a pop entertainment as was Circus. For two-thirds of its running time, it pounds four on the floor, and then spends the remaining third ponying up to the bar while the string of slow jams bores almost everyone silly (except for all those winsome little waif boys in the corner whose lives were saved many times over by "Beautiful"). Aguilera's handpicked cadre of writers and producers—M.I.A., Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, Le Tigre, Peaches, Sia, Polow da Don, the son of Chic's Bernard Edwards, and, on the deluxe edition, Santigold and Ladytron—are eclectic and intelligently applied, if not necessarily the first group of names you'd select for a project intended to predict the future, like an album-length reincarnation of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love."...full text
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