The Xtina files

We set out from the very beginning to talk about “electronic music in all its forms” and so we have. Sometimes that may mean discussing an artist that some may consider anything but an “electronic artist” or in other cases, an artist that doesn’t deserve the attention of a blog that deals in a medium that largely lives in the alternative sphere. And yet we push on, trying to be as inclusive as possible.

When we hear that Christina Aguilera is a) engaging in a purely electronic album and b) working with the Softsynth-revered Ladytron in the process it becomes clear that we need pay this experiment a little attention.

Her first single off the forthcoming Bionic is “Not Myself Tonight” and what does she bring to the table? First question answered, does she pay fealty to real electronic music. Answer – yep. This isn’t just producer backfill, there are riffs and a clear front and centre electronic presence. It is any good? Well, that’s subjective of course, but it doesn’t exactly write a new chapter for dance music. There’s nothing new here, just the same old thing packaged up with some neat sounds.

Then there’s the video, take a moment to view:

Now the recently earth mother/taking out my piercings/jazz-standard-embracing Xtina is taking a decidedly sharp turn back toward dirrrty-vile. Okay, all power to her and frankly we preferred her in that mode. But there’s something so derivative, something almost…pathetic about this. You’ve got your bondage, your positively”shocking” (in the early 90’s maybe) girl-on-girl action, your skimpy outfits, your simulated sex – all of which we celebrate from the rooftops in and of themselves, but to what end? Much has been made of Aguilera’s obvious attempt to co-opt the Lada GaGa “thing”, and there is undoubtedly an element of that here (though we see more of an homage to early 90s Madonna than anything). Is she trying to shock? (fail) Stay relevant? (jury’s out) Go back to her “roots”? (maybe, but it’s not the most inspired directional choice; her career GPS is not at its most relevant). We’ll reserve full judgement until we hear the full album, with all of its nifty collaborators in full display but while we applaud the direction there’s nothing new here, just the same old, same old dressed up in cool clothes, complete with sparkly ball-gag.

What this is, though, is the latest reminder of the creeping mainstreaming of electronic music, about which we have written ad nauseam (and we won’t regurgitate the hypothesis yet again here in its entirety), and that’s nothing but a good thing. This comes in waves, sometimes little blips of sudden interest in techno (like we saw briefly in the late 90s/early oughts), sometimes a more sustained shifting of the central sound on mainstream radio (like we witnessed in the early 90s when the likes of REM and the Cardigans recorded largely electronic albums). Aguilera’s latest sound is just a reinforcement of the fact that we are in the midst of another such wave (better exemplified by the bizarre presence of La Roux’s “Bulletproof” high up on the Billboard Hot 100 singles charts – a song that would have gotten a second glance from North American radio a few years ago, or even the saccharine ickyness of Owl City as a chart monster). While such waves produce a lot of pretender garbage any period when electronic music is better-accepted by more people as a legitimate form of music is good for any true electronic artist trying to move product or get bodies out to concerts, so if it means the likes of Christina Aguilera getting her synth on, so be it. Welcome to the party.

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One Response to “The Xtina files”

  1. […] the Xtina files So we alluded to the newest effort from Christina Aguilera in a post back in May. Our discussion was an holistic look at her being the latest in a long string of mainstream artists […]

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