“There’s a thousand faces of me,” sings Christina Aguilera on “Lotus,” her seventh studio album which released Tuesday. But considering the legion of likely more than 1,000 fans who have mimicked their best “Xtina” impression, that number may actually be much higher.
Aguilera is a bona fide pop superstar, having sold more than 50 million records. With so many eyes and ears on her, Aguilera’s work has an obligation to be accessible. Normally it is, but on her last studio album, 2010’s “Bionic,” Aguilera tried something different by featuring guest artists Peaches and Le Tigre, two names that are only recognizable to indie music fans.
“Bionic” was generally regarded as a flop, leaving critics unanimously lukewarm. The problem wasn’t just the indie musicians – Aguilera’s voice was also heavily modified on the record in what seemed like an attempt to match the sexy robot sound popularized by Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.
Aguilera’s featured guests on “Lotus” are Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green, who are judges alongside Aguilera on “The Voice.”
Lyrically, Aguilera uses language general enough for every listener to relate to. The song “Army of Me,” which includes lyrics “Welcome to my revolution / All your walls are breaking down / It’s time you had a taste of losing / Time the table’s turned around,” could be an anthem for anyone who is mad at another person – a pretty wide range.
On “Lotus,” Aguilera tones down the weirdness but does not abandon it. Because pop musicians are not generally tied to any one genre, they often try to reinvent themselves. Instead, they often end up borrowing all kinds of different sounds. African funk, Latin and hip-hop all influence “Lotus,” especially on “Red Hot Kinda Love.”
Also present on the album are more traditional pop sounds like a piano ballad, “Blank Page,” and electronic club music, with “Your Body.”
Overall, the album is best when Aguilera does not grasp any identity other than the one that made her a star: tiny girl, giant voice. Shows like “The Voice” are built on the idea that people generally enjoy watching and listening to someone with an incredible voice pushing their talent to the max. Aguilera is one such talent and should capitalize on our longing to be awed by a great voice. These basic moments happen often enough on “Lotus” for the album to be considered somewhat of a success.