Revisiting 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 to develop a hard-on for electronic music and while we celebrated that embrace, we took issue with some of the obvious reasons for the directional turn and the derivative qualities inherent within.

A couple of months later we’ve forced ourselves to listen to “Xtina”s latest, Bionic all the way through a couple of times, and please allow us a few moments to briefly recap our experience. Bottom line, our suspicions were bang-on. It’s a boatload of crap. It’s Christina..sorry, “Xtina” doing her vocal acrobatic thing to a sequenced background. Here’s our biggest beef – Aguilera chickened out and didn’t follow through on her big noise that launched this latest phase. After big talk of collaborations with electronic giants like Peaches, Le Tigre, Goldfrapp and Ladytron and noise that suggested this was going to be an authentic electronic album with meaningful input from some of the genre’s greatest champions she even had this blogger intrigued. In the end the Goldfrapp sessions were scrapped, the Ladytron tracks pushed to bonus material and the other electronic notables pushed into album tracks that sound like watered down versions of the collaborators rather than anything exciting and new from Aguilera. It’s a total cowardly cop-out – for all the bold talk the album ends up sounding like a mundane, derivative, and rather pathetic Aguilera album instead of anything bold or of the electronic movement. There are the requisite Aguilera ballads sounding…well, sounding like every other Aguilera ballad every recorded, and the balance are tricked-out dance tracks. There’s no new bold direction here – her handlers looked at what could have been and blinked Instead of going for broke they retreated to the tried and true (with the ironic, but hardly surprising flacidness on the charts they feared in the first place).

The reason we revisit this painful half-assed effort at all is to focus on one interesting song to come out of the muck – one of the bonus tracks as it turns out. The Ladytron track Birds of Prey is a genuine shock as it sounds absolutely nothing like Ms. Aguilera and entirely, utterly like a song that could have come from a Ladytron album. The biggest reason the song stands out is it is completely devoid of any of the excess trappings Aguilera is known for. No vocal acrobatics, no trite sound trappings that instantly identify one of her songs. She actually ends up sounding downright lovely. The song was played for Mrs. Softsynth and when challenged to identify the artist she was stumped. It had never, never occurred to her this could be Christina Aguilera. And it’s quite telling. As she finds herself increasingly irrelevant to the musical discourse in 2o10, she could have done something to shake things up, instead she chickened out and pushed the great experiment to the side and songs like “Birds of Prey” could have marked her as someone bold and interesting, and not obsessed with out Gagaing Lade Gaga. Sadly she went with what she knew. As it stands we get a glimpse into what she could have pulled off (and are reminded of just how potent Ladytron are, no matter who they work with). It all just makes us start yearning for the next Ladytron album. Who knows, maybe Aguilera can slum it a little and cross the streams again and keep herself in the relevant column a few moments longer.

Listen to: Birds of Prey

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