Let’s just discuss the elephant in the room: Christina Aguilera is no Lady Gaga. Since the release of Bionic‘s first single, “Not Myself Tonight,” she has come under heavy criticism for trying too hard to emulate Gaga. However, the real issue here is that the album has no idea what it wants to be. It’s bland, forgettable, and at times just down right awful. Because there is no sense of cohesiveness or consistency, it’s all to evident that this album had way too many ideas crammed in by its too-long list of producers.
A major issue that I had with the album was how disingenuous it seems. At 29, Aguilera has grown up, and developed her sound into something more mature. Yet on this album, she goes all out with the shock value. I’m not buying it. Back in 2002 when Christina was known as Xtina, a song like “Dirrty” worked because her fan base was young and it was frivolous and so was she. Eight years later, trying to bring back those themes when everyone has grown up simply doesn’t work, and it comes across as trying too hard to fit in with the new generation of youth. And while Pop never demanded in depth lyrics, this album goes near the gutter. Musically, Bionic isn’t much better. However you feel about Aguilera as an artist, it can’t be denied that she has phenomenal vocal range. So when she released Back to Basics in 2006, many saw it as a much more mature path for her. It was a logical step, and showed she had grown as an artist, trading in commercial pop for a more elegant jazz sound. So to see her go back to what she was doing in 2002, and doing it much worse than before, there is no other way to view this than as a giant steps backwards. It certainly isn’t progression that she includes samples of her son and husband on the album, literally 15 minutes after forcing us to endure a song about her getting her vagina licked.
Musically, Bionic is plagued with weak samples and beats. Because the majority of the tracks lack any kind of hook, the songs rely solely on the electro elements to get them through. However, most of the electro elements on this album are generic and uninspired. I wish I could talk more about the individual songs, but there isn’t a lot to differentiate them from each song to the next. “Desnudante” uses an orgasm sample for its chorus. “Wohoo” features the lyrics “You know you wanna put your lips where my hips are.” These are just some of the many examples of this album trying too hard to shock. It’s baffling that someone thought it was a good idea to bury Aguilera’s best asset, her voice, in this mess. Even more bizarre is the fact that after track 10, the next four songs are all ballads. And wouldn’t you know, the tracks where she actually sings are really good!
Yes, the ballads on this album are excellent. They have Aguilera showcasing some of her best vocal performances to date. The sublime “All I Need” has an almost Regina Spektor-esque vibe to it, as her vocals playfully circle around off beat piano. “You Lost Me” soars with an incredible string section. Doesn’t this sound more interesting? To me, this would have been a much more of an “re-invention” for Aguilera. But my pleasure is cut short, as “I Hate Boys” comes on. The next three tracks are loud and obnoxious electropop tunes defending a woman’s right to be vain in choosing her men. No thanks. And it is in this moment, that I felt like I had just been kicked in the gut. Salt in the wound that they detour this mess briefly with four great songs, then snap us back to the train wreck. And really, this only proves what I had suspected going into this album – that they had no idea what kind of record they wanted this be.
I really can’t say there are any redeeming tracks on this album that are in the electronic portions. The only tracks that are listenable are the ballads, and it’s because they allow Christina to open up and do what she does best: sing. Next time around, I hope Aguilera delves more into the piano or orchestral direction that was briefly touched upon on this album. There is no denying what a beautiful voice she has, and it’s a shame they have decided to bury here under generic beats. The album ends with Christina claiming, “And let’s not forget who owns the throne,” followed by a sample is of her son saying, “You do Mommy.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. If she was ever even considered the queen of pop, she surely lost the crown years ago.