Thursday 10 June 2010

I Know You Got A Voice, Why You Don't Use It?

Sony Music Entertainment/RCA Records
Released: 7th June, 2010

BI-ON-IC… having ordinary human powers increased by or as if by the aid of
such [artificial… electromechanical] devices
In her powerful, soaring singing voice, Christina Maria Aguilera already has a power beyond ordinary, so quite why, when creating her fourth studio album, her army of newly-appointed “trendy” producers/co-writers felt the need to diminish the impact of her tremendously talented timbre with layers of blips, bleeps, bangs and beats is beyond me. Don’t misunderstand me; I adore an electro vibe to my music – just not at the cost of what makes an artist unique. Darren Hayes found the perfect balance between tune and tone with the extraordinary epic This Delicate Thing We’ve Made (2007), alas, in the case of Bionic; these artificial electromechanical devices have certainly not increased Xtina’s human powers, rather reduced her to a personality-void robotic karaoke machine.

Throughout her chameleonic 11 year career, Xtina has never rested long on one particular musical (or fashion) style. Unsurprisingly, her latest incarnation is unlike anything she has done before, though not for the better. The antithesis of focused, personal and relatable zenith Stripped (2002), Bionic is a busy, opulent, distended mess of sex talk, swearwords, fashion tips, brags and taunts. In other words: it’s hollow guff which makes a lot of noise saying fuck all. Yep, I swore. If you want to listen to Bionic, you had better get used to it, because being foulmouthed is clearly the epitome of maturity... I’m not simply referring to fanbase-splitting first single “Not Myself Tonight” (which, surprisingly, I truly liked, S&M video aside), as this is the case on a number of the album’s uptempo beasts.

The biggest stars should be setting the trends as they expand their legacies, not following them; therefore it is disappointing that Bionic feels like a regression both musically and lyrically, as well as a succession to a style of ‘cool’ music so divergent from everything Xtina has done before. For a woman who is now a wife and mother to be acting like a vapid, hormonal chav with tourettes is frankly embarrassing. Don’t even get me started on the deplorable “Woohoo” (featuring Nicki Mina), which sees the diva boast about how much we want to taste her lady parts (!!) in the same taboo-teasing way as the Pussycat Doll’s “Beep”, but without a modicum of the charm.

Bionic's 18-track first disc also suffers from inexcusable imbalance: a wild and offensive slew of eight club bangers leave you gasping for a respite from the audible onslaught, before a run of four ballads (and two unnecessarily individually-tracked skits) grind the pace to a halt. The tempo is ramped up for a blistering and purportedly empowering trio of tosh to round out the pack, with album closer and competitor for worst song (it’s a close call), “Vanity”, leaving us with such cringe-worthy boasts as:

I’m not cocky
I just love myself… bitch
Mirror mirror on the wall
Who’s the flyest bitch of them all?
Never mind I am (that bitch is so fucking sexy)
While the slower and more passionate numbers recapture a hint of the spark which made the public fall in love with the former teen star (the Linda Perry penned “Lift Me Up” is stunning, if not quite as memorable as number one single “Beautiful”), they would have been better placed interspersing the repetitive and distasteful trash that proceeded them rather than grouped together like a separate entity of secondary importance. Of the faster tracks, “Prima Donna” is a standout, if only because it doesn’t allude to sex every couple of lines. Oh, and it includes an (uncredited) interpolation of The Jackson’s “Can You Feel It” which is a truly commanding classic.

Ironically, four of the five tracks on disc two of Bionic’s {DELUXE EDITION} are stronger than 90% of the tripe on the main album. “Monday Morning” grabbed me instantly with its “Billie Jean”-like bass line and funky charm, while “Birds of Prey” is haunting in the fashion of Madonna's "Frozen", and “Stronger Than Ever” is an inspiring, melodious tunes. Only madcap 2nd track “Bobblehead” failed to impress me, with Xtina channelling her inner-Stefani and integrating an irksome airhead impression to intentionally and ‘ironically’ have a dig at vacuous gold-diggers with such witticisms as:

Talky talky talky but you don’t say shit
Got a way with words you give me nothing bitch

High brow stuff, this. Alas, this is the overriding problem with Bionic; far too often Aguilera opts for cheap, juvenile thrills over genuine, relatable substance, giving the whole album an artificial and overproduced glaze as if the wife and mother is endeavouring to appear sexy, edgy, fashionable and down wit da kids. Regrettably, the 29 year-old diva comes off as inauthentic and desperate with an uneven hodge-podge of an album mired by an excess of second-rate pap. Whatever happened to the Genie in a Bottle?

CR@B Verdict: There are a smattering of gems in this bloated opus, unfortunately you have to wade through heaps of vulgar, tacky rot before you reach the riches, and I wouldn’t blame you for tiring of the charade long before that. Artificial and inauthentic; Bionic’s robotics left me cold.


  1. Aguilera, as we may already know, is an undeniably talented singer (as much as it aches me to admit such a crime). Plus her career has far surpassed the expectations that I originally placed on her when 'Genie In A Bottle' was released.

    There's one thing that is becoming increasingly noticeable about her though... her direct link to Britney Spears.

    Any Aguilera fan hisses in their chair at the mention of similarities between the two. Yet the two bear a remarkable desire to mirror their musical styling on the 'trend' of the time.

    Currently electronica is king. It has infiltrated rock, dance, pop and R'n'B with such abundance that people are beginning to wonder how we ever used to listen to vocals without Autotune (I believe Ke$ha even uses it to have general conversations with people).

    So it is of no surprise to me that Aguilera has opted for the bleeps and buzzes in 'Bionic'. Got to keep up with the cool kids, eh? *rolls eyes in despair*

    As for the vulgarity of said album, it is an issue that concerns me greatly. Take for example children's television; during our time as school children (yes folks, we were young once) CBBC and the kind use to advertise their shows with a backing track featuring artists such as Steps, S Club 7... or if you want to go even earlier it would include 2 Unlimited or PJ and Duncan.

    I catch a glimpse of CBBC the other day and the backing track was Tinie 'If I tell her I'm a boxer will she let me down her knickers' Tempah...

    It appears the only lyrical material left to use these days has to centre around sex, people about to have sex, or people who have just had sex. As for music videos, well, give it ten years and we'll all be bopping in our seats whilst we catch the latest X Factor winner deep throating in her video for Christmas number one.

    Aguilera has obviously cottoned (word use) onto this, declaring war on reservedness (God rest its soul) and gone straight for the fanny flaps.

    And we wonder why teenage pregnancies are so high...

  2. Wow, that's quite some comment, wisemanthree - methinks someone has a lot more blogs in 'em! :)

    From a marketing angle I can see Aguilera's reasoning behind wanting to go down this populist route, but I think it's sad that an established artist feels the need to pander to the market rather than have faith that her voice/name/music will sell itself.

    11 years after "Genie" Aguilera is at the stage in her career where she has a large enough fan base to release what she WANTS to, not what she thinks she NEEDS to, to sell more to da kids.

    Looking back my **.5 was generous - I don't think I've even listened to this album since I wrote this review, and I was generally excited when I heard she was releasing new material.

    Whatever Aguilera's masterplan, it backfired horrendously, leaving her with the dishonourable accolade of "smallest selling UK #1 album ever" and, the following week, "biggest drop from #1 ever" (I think it fell over 30 places...) - and let's not even get into the US figures!!

    People simply didn't buy into this act, and after the fanbase had had their first week fill, sales evaporated instantly.

    It's unfortunate as I generally am a fan of Miss Aguilera's; I just hope she can bounce back from this low point with a sincere and envelope-pushing follow up.

  3. I, of course, a newcomer to this blog, but the author does not agree