It’s perhaps hardly surprising that Christina Aguilera would suffer from a considerable identity crisis on Bionic. This, her fourth studio album, finds the bombshell having gone through a lot since the release of 2006’s Back to Basics.
And just like Back to Basics was a jumble of concepts and backpatting interludes, Bionic presents the pop star as lacking distinguishing traits. Aguilera again fails to present a complete album, which is something that almost all of her fellow female pop artists have done thus far.
As a mother and as a woman seemingly in control of her sexuality, Aguilera’s lack of actual confidence is disappointing. She is a skilled vocalist, to be sure, but has often relied far too much on obnoxious runs and big-headed explosiveness to separate herself from the flock. While Bionic ultimately scales down her larger-than-necessary vocal experiments, it doesn’t offer much in exchange.
Aguilera fires up the album with the title track, an electro-pop club banger that sounds promising with its deep bass and vocal effects. It’s practically retro, a volatile blend of shout-a-long pop and stuttered beats, and it’s a style that fits her well. She doesn’t overpower and fits the robotic effects nicely.
“Not Myself Tonight” carries the theme forward somewhat, telling us precisely what we can do if we don’t like what Xtina’s going to do. Of course, the track’s title should probably be a clue as to the direction of the record.
Other trips through the electro-pop genre are less fulfilling. The muddled “Woohoo” never really gets off the ground despite its five-and-a-half minutes and Nicki Minaj’s presence. And “Desnudate” is nowhere near as sexy as it thinks it is.
When Aguilera hits the record’s first interlude, all hell breaks loose. “Fashion is a lifestyle, it’s a choice,” she tells us before launching into “Glam.” The track is a frustrating and uncomfortable ode to Madonna’s “Vogue,” but Aguilera fails in recreating any of the slinkiness of the track she’s trying to emulate. “Don’t let the clothes wear you,” she offers. Right.
After not committing to the robotic pop of the album’s first few numbers, Aguilera tiptoes into the intimate and explicit “Sex for Breakfast” and finally captivates. With its smart R&B tone and Aguilera’s racy lyrics about making someone late for work for all the right reasons, “Sex for Breakfast” is one of Bionic’s uncommon highlights.
Regrettably, Aguilera sprints off in another direction with “Lift Me Up.” A drab Linda Perry-penned ballad, the track feels like just about every other Xtina ballad except with smaller notes. Its position is peculiar, too, as it doesn’t really work as the cool-down from the aforementioned sexy mealtime number.
More ballads dot the way towards the next shift on “I Hate Boys” and “My Girls.” Peaches is along for the ride on the latter, but even she can’t do much to bail out the stinker.
Bionic closes its doors, at long last, with another mandatory ego track. “Vanity” finds Aguilera proclaiming herself as the “flyest bitch of them all” and bounding around through a pretty tight club beat with thoughtless self-importance and abundant vocal effects. After thanking her parents for her awesomeness, Aguilera lets us off with a warning and a finishing yowl.
And that’s that. Perhaps the only constant note on Bionic is that Christina Aguilera wants us to know what we can do if we don’t like it. Unfortunately, the offer isn’t that motivating anymore and the record feels more like a giant ego pat than a walk through the mentality of an artist worth paying attention to.
With influences ripped from far and wide and the album’s original concept scarcely toyed with, it’s hard to commend this record beyond a few individual tracks. What’s more unfortunate, however, is that it’s hard to find an ounce of authenticity amongst all the “mechanized” affectation Aguilera puts us through.