Christina Aguilera: Lotus
The album cover for Lotus (pictured below) portrays Christina rising naked from a blossoming lotus, suggesting a beautiful beginning – more specifically, since she’s been around long enough to have greatest hits album, a new beginning. A rebirth. I’m a fan of the idea of new beginnings at any stage in life, especially when life demands fight or flight.
Since her last album, Bionic (2010), she has had a divorce and become a judge on NBC’s the Voice. Disappointment mixed with the thrill of fresh success – no wonder she feels as if she is starting over. Her promotional single for this album, “Your Body,” made me cynical when approaching Lotus (as you can read for yourself here), but as I watched her theme carefully develop with each track, my respect increased.
- Lotus Intro (3:18) – At first I was disappointed that her iconic voice was covered in auto-tuning, but in less than a minute I was struck by the layers of her own breathy vocals harmonizing within each other and a distinct background vocalization emphasized with a driving beat. A mystical, anticipatory quality was achieved as she repeats “Raise up Lotus/Raise Up/This is the beginning,” creating a perfect introduction to the exploration of the mysterious concept of beauty derived from pain.
- Army of Me (3:27) – Christina is still singing about being a “Fighter,” but I found “Army of Me” to be just as powerful if not more so in that she is now an experienced 31-year old who has more knowledge of what her lyrics really mean. There’s no auto-tuning in this track, so look out! Christina’s vocal chords flex and unleash. Self-empowerment anthems are classic Christina.
- Red Hot Kinda Love (3:06) – Christina may be fighting the hurt of a broken marriage, but this track proves she’s certainly not wallowing; she is ready for something more casual and fun. This song has a bit of a cutesy, cheerleader feel with its quirky, high-pitched “ooh’s” and “nanana’s” to match the lyrics “Oh I got a crush/Feeling like fifteen again/No I won’t lie/Boy I’m on fire.” Good for her. Any lady knows a fling with a cute guy can snap her out of any funk; in fact, it’s part of the healing process. Going back to her “little girlie” roots fits nicely with the theme of rebirth.
- Make the World Move (3:00) – We all know spending all our energy despising the last heartbreaker has no worth. Her Voice co-judge CeeLo Green joins her in singing “Turn up the love/Turn down the hate” as a call to see the bigger picture in life. These friends emphasize that making that “future sound” is even better with two. The pattern is pretty predictable and there’s hardly any CeeLo. The only fresh feel is a buried, choppy sample of Armando Trovaioli’s jazz composition “Let’s Find Out.” It adds a little class to a song that the world-renowned musicians should have put a lot more effort into. Come on, guys.
- Your Body (4:00) – The R&B single for her album is a catchy club anthem with inspiration from electric genres, complete with synthesizers, and hint of dub-step. Without subtlety, she sings about her desire for a casual, sexual encounter in contrast to the young sweetie of “Red Hot Kinda Love.” The chorus is radio-friendly but the lyrics in the verses are squirmable. She’s not crushing, and he’s not her kind of guy (“Don’t even tell me your name”); rather, she sings, “All I wanna do is love your body.” The point, I think, is that she has regained confidence in herself (“Tonight’s your lucky night/I know you want it”).
- Let There Be Love (3:22) – Let’s just say in track six she is getting what she demanded in track five, and she’s liking it. “Let There Be Love” is the most clubby of these tracks, especially with the introductory synthesizer (easy transition piece for DJ’s), and easy lyrics (“Hit the right spot, like that,” which reminds one of grinding on the dance floor). It’s a chaotic beat with the wild but lighthearted feel of most Ke$ha tracks, which is a bit unnatural as the follow-up to her severe demands in “Your Body.”
- Sing For Me (4:01) – In this soul-ballad, she directly refers to her music career – why she still sings and how she handles criticism: “When I open my mouth/My whole heart comes out/Every tear I want to cry is satisfied.” She reiterates that singing is an emotional release and the studio is where she is vulnerable, no longer caring what the haters have to say (“I’m going to sing for me”).
- Blank Page (4:05) – I admit that this song was a tear-jerker for me. She is lamenting the times she hurt someone: “If I could undo that I hurt you/I would do anything for us to make it through.” The rawness and power emphasized with a simple piano background led me to listen to it about five times in a row because I felt I just had to know it more intimately. We see an almost school-girl emotional craze in that all she needs to receive hope is for him to “Draw me a smile,” and she goes on to say, “Save me tonight/I am a blank page waiting for you to bring me to life.” The spirit of “Blank Page” reminded me of “the Voice Within,” and the flexibility in her voice is equally incredible. In effective contrast, she begs airily, softy, “Let out hearts stop and beat as one forever.” I wholeheartedly applaud her for this song.
- Cease Fire (4:07) – She compares her fight with her former lover to a fight on the battlefield, and she’s calling out, “Baby cease fire fire fire/Throw down your weapons weapons weapons.” Predictably, there are war drums and a marching beat, which I always find to be pretty cheesy. I do, however, like her humility in reminding him, “I’m on your side” and “When I am alone on the frontline/I need you to stand next to me.”
- Around the World (3:25) – This track honestly confused me. She begins with “Baby, let’s explore/ Imagine all the things we can do in one night/Everything and more” but if she’s set the scenario that she and her partner only have one night, then why is she singing about “making love worldwide”? She mentions all the different destinations on the globe: “Hollywood to Japan/Tokyo to Milan/Baby, just for tonight” but is a bit of a lofty idea. Maybe it’s her fantasy. Good luck with that.
- Circles (3:26) – This track lacks originality with its industrial beats and her electronically muffled sassily telling critics to “Spin around in circles on my middle middle finger” and flaunting “Hold up/I got more money than I can fold up.” It makes her a bit of hypocrite when the listener recalls the earlier track “Make the World Move.” Oh well, no one can be completely consistent.
- Best of Me (4:08) – Again with the battle drum beat. Maybe this album should have had more of a battle-esque title? Regardless, this is the calmer version of “Circles.” She asks her critics, “Aren’t you tired of throwing stones/Trying to kick me when I’m down/But you’ll never get the best of me.” She even admits, “I still cry/Are you happy?” I applaud her vulnerability but I don’t think it’s going to help. As the saying goes, hater’s gonna hate.
- Just a Fool (4:14) – This time her duet is with Blake Shelton, another co-judge on the Voice. I must say that she overpowers his country-time gentility quite a bit but it’s still a nice country ballad and a good change of pace in the album. The two mourn the concept of rejection: “Who knew that love was so cruel/And I waited and waited so long for someone who’ll never come home.”
- Light Up the Sky (3:31) – As one can gather from the title, the lyrics are completely predictable and simplistic, similar to but even worse than Katy Perry’s “Firework.” At least in “Light Up the Sky” we can actually hear fireworks going off; in fact, the fireworks are the base beat to the chorus but, otherwise, it’s simple pop.
- Empty Words (3:48) – Another track confronting her critics. I resonate with the following lyrics in the bridge (with simple but driving piano chords): “The hardest part of this/Cannot be heard or seen/This journey starts when I begin loving me.” Loving one’s self in the face of cruelty or in disappointing relationships shows maturity and parallels the Lotus flower theme.
- Shut Up (2:52) – Okay, the profanity is over the top and even right in the catchy chorus (“Shut up/Just shut the f*** up”) but you just can’t help smiling hearing the self-empowerment driven Christina blending in with a mixed chorus, cussing someone out. It’s just funny.
With such a serious introduction to the album in “Lotus Intro,” I felt like there was no closure at its conclusion. But all in all, I’m glad I took the time to listen to the album all the way through, especially to discover songs like “Lotus Intro,” “Blank Page,” and “Just a Fool.” Seeing Christina outside of her role on the Voice was refreshing and caused me to recall what made her and continues to make her a star: she has the vocal stamina of an ox, some powerful accompanying lyrics, and the beauty of a goddess (still). Christina fans will not be disappointed.
Posted on November 23, 2012, in Music and tagged Bionic, Blake Shelton, CeeLo Green, Christina Aguilera, Just a Fool, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Lotus, Make the World Move, NBC, the Voice, The Voice Within. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.