Lotus is an improvement, but it’s not Christina Aguilera. It’s not the teenage pop star who had three No. 1 singles off an R&B, soul-style album. It’s not the half-naked Xtina who wanted a genuinely “Dirrty” hip-hop record. And it’s most certainly not a full-blown 1920s throwback that still managed to generate hits in 2006.
That’s when 2010 reared its ugly head, with the failure of Bionic knocking the confidence right out of Aguilera. The off-the-beaten-path music disappeared and has now been replaced with the play-it-safe sound of Lotus.
The album is, musically speaking, a step up from Bionic, but even that flop of a record had the stylistic consistency expected of Aguilera. Lotus might have catchier tunes, but it’s the same messy production of every other pop artist nowadays. “Red Hot Kinda Love” sounds like a mix of the ’20s Back to Basics style and the futuristically unfriendly noise of Bionic, making it difficult to pinpoint the track’s musical genre.
The ballads have no stylistic confusion, but are rather boring, seemingly thrown in to give the appearance of musical sophistication — though “Blank Page” is a pleasantly uplifting track that’s melodically similar to her 2002 hit “Beautiful.” She can thank award-winning songwriter Sia for writing this new potential hit.
The “Lotus Intro” is one of the more distinct tracks on the album. The mystical synths, the echoed “Wayayaya” s sung in the background and the foreign percussion drumming create a spiritual dance atmosphere that seems well suited to Aguilera’s musical rebirth message. If only any of the other songs on the album resembled this intro. The record would’ve been tied together nicely and a worthy listen.
And then there are the Max Martin-written tracks. If there’s one thing everyone should realize at this point, it’s that Martin needs to take his $250 million net worth and stop writing music. “Your Body” was such a dull track that it couldn’t even chart higher than Christina’s lead single on Bionic, “Not Myself Tonight.” Having the most anticipated single of the year barely squeezing its way into the Top-40 is pitiful. Somehow, Aguilera and Martin managed to create a lead single that was even too basic for America — a true rarity. And, of course, the other Martin track “Let There Be Love” isn’t any better.
“Make the World Move” is Aguilera’s best shot at cranking out another hit. Her collaboration with CeeLo Green on this song is enough to gain some initial attention, and the mash of Aguilera and CeeLo’s classic style on the dance track is enough to make it a smash. It’s refreshing to hear a track that meets the expectation of its two singers. It’s a shame that her co-star of “The Voice,” Adam Levine, couldn’t make an appearance on the album, given that Aguilera lent him some heavy vocals on Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger.”
Aguilera openly admitted that there wasn’t one particular style utilized on the album, and that it was more of a musical experimentation. However, this is her fifth studio album, and the basis of her other four were experimentation — the only difference with Lotus being that it’s a chaotic approach. At this point Aguilera should have some idea of what she wants in her music. Not to mention, the one-dimensionality of certain tracks makes a listener think that Aguilera should’ve saved the title Back to Basics for this album. Go reunite with Linda Perry, who wrote “Beautiful,” and try again later.