Thursday, 22 November 2012
Christina Aguilera - Lotus (2012)
It has been a decade since Christina Aguilera was universally recognized as a truly viable singles act, and on Lotus her juices flow faster and thicker than I ever thought she'd go - the melodies don't just ooze out, they hurl themselves like being pushed out a moving car on the freeway. Although her red nectar has been known to drip down her legs under immense pressure to make sure people know she's better than them, Lotus is a confident display of her true colours, a blend of the best and worst Xtina at her very finest. Fertilizing her flower with the recent shit she's been through is no easy task, and when told she was barking up the wrong tree with the music lovers album Bionic, Xtina took it literally and went for the next best thing. Plants.
From a deep dark faraway place to emotional infinity: "I sing for freedom, and for love. I look at my reflection, embrace the woman I've become. The unbreakable lotus in me I now set free." Feeding her flower with a wash of yelp echos, new world atmospherics and empowered spoken-word exotica. Not quite taking a leaf out of Enya's book, the dense growth of harmonious and sensual chants are ravishing. The breathtaking climax achieving the smuggest sense of bliss possible.
Army of Me
Marching over a thoughtless dance thump, AOM gathers a steady invasion of Max Martin's 'songs for Katy Perry' documents folder. The sleek verses are deliciously bitter, and Xtina's teeth-licking taunts camouflage the otherwise blatant intent to attack both the charts and her ex's last shred of dignity (it's hard to tell which one she's aiming for most). Although it sounds more about her voice being on the firing line than anything else, the chorus luxuriates in the force of her vocal ammunition, least we forget she can sing. "There's a thousand faces on me" articulates the suspicion that she probably never takes her make-up off, and her loaded gun is full of ha's beyond the point of parody, but perhaps she's simply all too aware how much of a retread this is. This would be my third single after Blank Page if I had my way.
Red Hot Kinda Love
Laid-back and frisky retro disco fusion with a Luscious Jackson's Nervous Breakthrough basement party vibe. A subtle pleasure for such a big singer, her diet of sizzling Latin rhythms gives the track a lightweight feel, but Xtina serves it as a palette cleanser for bigger full-throatal earthquakes coming up. Funneling house music and disco influences into a funky cocktail riddled with customized Christina ingredients.
Make The World Go Round
Exactly what I wanted from them both. Just because it doesn't go anywhere beyond 2 or 3 amazing hooks doesn't mean it's not fun and fashionable. Fashion's a lifestyle, and it's definitely a size 18 squeezed into a size 12, but it's a size 8 from me.
Fuck Your Body
Spunking her career up the walls, the orifice-ripping chorus is the most memorable of the year so far. "Ha! Alright! Say!" ejaculates something more full-bodied, bitter and delighted with herself than I ever thought possible. Fucked to a pulp, this should have been her biggest hit since the 90s. I've wrote enough about this song already. The sheer onslaught of everything about this track is phenomenal.
Let There Be Love
Sounding like not only both Madonna's Girl Gone Wild and Get Together but also something or other by Kelly Rowland, it's the "like that/yeah/let's go" interjections that elevate the album's definitive 'faster than slow' experience into something more memorable than another louder than loud Loud knock-off. Despite being easy to dismiss as heavily bloated and generic, it erupts into a lava flow of euphoria that could only be commanded by Chrissy. However, releasing this would be worse than weed-killer. It gives me a massive smirk to listen to this when walking outside - it's such an experience being a Christina fan.
Sing For Me
Mining her vast reserves of volume, the lioness of I Am has a lot of pride, with limitless feelings about herself. The powerful shouting gives way to a litter of airy, subtle phrasingy bits at the end, which are divine calm after the shit storm of emotions. Deliberately roughing up her own song to at least try and expand the meaning to the same hugeness as her technical range, it's equal parts glorious and horrendous (the "give me your worst" currency that keeps on paying). The dashing of waltzing piano keys at the 3rd chorus (after THAT key-change) are just lovely.
Will she ever record a better song than this? The biggest bookmark of her career so far. I've already explained why this song is so important. This song deserves the works from her record label to ensure it becomes a hit. A new page of the American Songbook has been drafted. Is the infected world TOO UNPREPARED for this though? The soft regret of "let our hearts..." the ribbons of spiraling melody and the anguish squeezed out of it all - every second gushes with melancholy, soaring with pain or tenderly overcome, no other song has conveyed emotion on this intimate and powerful level. She completely inhabits this song.
Self-governing as ever, Christina's 4 minutes of conflict resolves what took Ireland decades is nothing short of a miracle. I do hear a lot of noise, windows probably will be broken, but I don't think anything is truly set a light and there's not even an f-bomb.
Around The World
More sexual combat malarkey from Miss Easyjet herself. Getting a lot of mileage from similar production elsewhere (on this album AND in general), this could be anyone. It's rendered noteworthy only because of the Lady Marmalade d-tour as her worldwide Ag slag-a-thon is a bit of a slog. If Bionic was marred by uneveness, then Lotus is flawed only by consistency - the bombastic production is stamped all over the latter half of the album, and the marching drum motif is done better elsewhere. Flying economy, I can certainly get on board with it though. A bit too deliberately hectic and pompous, but wthout the usual fun of being horrible or inappropriate.
The unrelatable put-downs about having more money than she can fold up (so you can shut the fuck up, etc), and near-unrepeatable lyrics (cringe-worthy not shock-worthy) will make this a hard sell, but despite so many sensitive confessions such as "why you always try to be all up in my mixture?" and "you got the smell of my success on your breath, desperate, you're a mess" they actually play second fiddle to a chorus that takes a similar shape to The Breeders' Cannonball. I'm not into the unconvincing screams and forced cackles at the end (they just don't sound spontaneous), and the final "motherfucker" isn't even Max's first 2.0.
Best of Me
The middle-8, the acoustic guitar bits, and the rare sense of quiet in the weary and sly verses are marvelous. There aren't many other songs showcasing different textures to her voice as opposed to the unrelenting guttural splatter ballads, which makes me fear that if she does go on tour she'll end up sound like Courtney Love at the end of it. "Tough as the nails" many will think are being scratched down the blackboard.
Just A Fool
The alcoholic within, the opening lyric is very Gaga, and for once she isn't drunk on her own volume. It could work for a country audience, but I don't get the F.U.S.S as a supposed standout above the full-throttle Blank Page, Light Up The Sky, Best of Me and Sing For Me. This is her Cyndi Lauper duets with The Hooters on Boys Will Be Boys moment - a really fine song, but far too middle of the road to be going forward.
Light Up The Sky
This is major, the verses rekindle the spirit of the best Stripped testifying numbers. The pathos drenched "we can be kings you and I...we light up the sky" is epic in a Rule The World kind of way. Such a special song, it's blazing.
Because she's not short of them. I can't resist this one either. A really strong build up, the bridges are essential, the chorus and beats DO sound cheapskate, but "the funny thing" melody flushes right through me. A good example of Christina setting a scene of hurt then usurping up into rage-fueled glee about being unbeatable and immune to people who don't agree with her. Stunning, all the while really showing off the shades of her voice well.
Christina pleased with her own mood as usual, she really does get a kick out herself kicking someone else's ass. If only Back To Basics sounded like this. The way she sings "ego" is so patronizing and brilliant to me, plus the way she doesn't sing the chorus is both those things too. The bleep actually works rhythmically, a rare benefit of Xtina censoring herself.
All the ha's, grunting and other typical Xtina distinctions are fully engaged with the vague concept of going mainstream, but it's a pity she so far isn't managing to get past the commercial stumbles that occurred when it occurred to her how meaningful and artistic she really could be. Personally I love the ravaged, constant straining to soar in every single song. The sap-free first half opens up into a much more emotional landscape, but the sexual combat jollies and defiant protection of self value all belong to the same stem with production motifs and her trademark nuances holding everything together. The scandal of her vocals are well over the edge of glory: with her vocals she'll never compromise and Lotus really is unbreakable. It's her best ever album, and if you don't like it fuck you and just shut the fuck up, etc.