After the commercial bomb of 2010’s risqué and futuristic “Bionic,” Christina Aguilera returns true to form with the slick, crowd-pleasing “Lotus.” While the album is being pitched as a “rebirth” for the pop diva, “Lotus” is an apology via streamlined pop music, because it attempts to regress lyrically to make up for “Bionic’s” mistakes. Unlike the genre-spanning and trend-setting gusto of 2002’s “Stripped” or the thematic integrity of 2006’s “Back to Basics,” Lotus is a setback as far as creativity goes for Aguilera.
Tracks like the club-ready “Let There Be Love” are expertly produced, containing hypersexual come-ons like “It feels so good that I can’t hold back / Hit the right spot / Makin’ my eyes roll back” that manage to make cheap pick-up lines sound somewhat profound. Even so, songs like this and the dance floor anthem “Army of Me” command attention with big hooks and exciting bass drops. Aguilera takes some small risks in production and lyrical themes in the form of the funky roller rink-ready “Red Hot Kind of Love,” complete with cowbells and a discothèque bass. Also, the surprising arena rocker “Circles” is an album standout that asks a sassy naysayer to “spin around in circles on my middle finger.” These tracks show promise in Aguilera’s new sound by deviating from the synth-driven dance-pop that fills out the rest of the album and introducing elements previously unheard of in her catalog.
The ballads on “Lotus” are generally overproduced, unlike Aguilera’s previous tearjerkers, which depended on swelling string arrangements and classical piano. Instead, ballads like the heartbreaking “Best of Me” manage to be stripped of their vulnerability by chugging bass lines and tinny drum machines.
While “Lotus” may be considered to be “selling out” to some fans, Aguilera’s skilled vocals and commitment to pushing every song to the listener with reckless abandon makes “Lotus” her most cohesive and committed effort of her career so far. Since when has selling out ever been this much fun?
Overall rating: 3 stars