Album Review: Christina Aguilera – Liberation

Xtina is back with ‘Liberation’ after a 6-year music hiatus.

Christina Aguilera’s talent was first seen as a kid in Disney’s The New Mickey Mouse Club, and funny enough was the starting point of many other talents, like Britney, Justin, Ryan Gosling and En Vogue-singer Rhona Bennett. In ‘98 she collabed once again with Disney, recording soundtrack single ‘Reflection’ for motion picture Mulan, but only a year later in ‘99 her breakout single ‘Genie in a Bottle’ and her self-titled debut made her a rising millenial star, even winning a Grammy for ‘Best New Artist’ in the year 2000. However, her teen pop persona was a bothering image for her, so a new ‘Xtina’ was born in 2002 when her album ‘Stripped’ portrayed her as a repulsive brat – being provocative and sexual, but also honest and vulnerable at the same time. Producers like Scott Storch and 4 Non Blondes-singer Linda Perry brought another level of artistry to Christina, and might be considered her best record, notable for singles ‘Dirrty’ (feat. Redman), ‘Beautiful’, and ‘Fighter’. Christina’s success continued with Jazz and Soul-inspired ‘Back to Basics’ – known for Grammy-winning ‘Ain’t No Other Man’, as well as ‘Hurt’ and ‘Candyman’ – and concluded her collection of hits with 2008’s ‘Keeps Gettin’ Better: A Decade of Hits’. The 2010s however, have been a rocky road for Christina’s more recent recordings. 2010’s ‘Bionic’ and 2012’s ‘Lotus’ were less succesful. She was more perceived as a judge on The Voice than a recording artist, but at least had success collaborating with Maroon 5 (‘Moves Like Jagger’), Pitbull (‘Feel This Moment’), and A Great Big World (‘Say Something’).

Now, her new album ‘Liberation’ is finally here, as it has been six whole years since dropping her last LP ‘Lotus’ in 2012. A long time coming, this marks the eighth studio release (or sixth, if you don’t count her Christmas and her Spanish LP). As the singer/songwriter is known to switch up her style and musical direction now and then, the question is: Will this be the classic Christina we know and love from the earlier days, or are we meeting a reinvention or her next unknown persona? Let’s find out.

Basically, a little bit of both. The album starts off with two introductions, an instrumental and an acapella, before getting to ‘Maria’ – a pop orchestrated piece featuring the one and only Michael Jackson – as it uses a sample from ‘Maria (You Were The Only One)’ from M.J.’s early Motown days. Michael’s voice is pitched and is heard throughout the track. The song, therefore, sounds like a mix of a classic ‘60s record with pop sounds of today. The whole album can be described that way, as many songs use different genres and singing styles but somehow find a lane back in mainstream music. Like ‘Sick of Sittin’’, a nod to Rock’n’Roll, or ‘Right Moves’, a steamy reggae track featuring Jamaican artists Keida and Shenseea. Some old school R&B and Hip-Hop are also represented, in ‘Pipe’ and ‘Like I Do’ (feat. GoldLink) – the latter being a funky bop track which is one of the highlights of the album. GoldLink starts off his rap on his own, while Christina takes over. Her cool signature ‘Ha!’ expression we know from former Xina recordings marks a comeback here.

‘Like I Do’ Lyric Video (feat. GoldLink)

Another notable song is ‘Masochist’ – a smooth ‘80s throwback song which could pass for being in the Stranger Things soundtrack. The lead single ‘Accelerate’ also plays with keyboard sounds of the 1980s. Produced by Kanye West, the track may be the most chaotic one, as different sounds and structures combine with rap verses in between, provided by Ty Dolla $ign and 2 Chainz.

Official Video for lead single ‘Accelerate’ (feat. Ty Dolla $ign & 2 Chainz)

Notable for her power voice, she provides impulsive vocals in ‘Deserve’ as well as ballads ‘Twice’ and ‘Unless It’s With You’. A big treat this time around are the two short acappella interludes ‘Searching for Maria’ and especially ‘I Don’t Need It Anymore’ where the listener can enjoy her unescorted solo voice.

The album’s lyrical content stays true to its title. Christina offers strength, hope and motivation – basically liberation – and directs them towards other women and young girls, like in interlude ‘Dreams’ where voices of girls express what they want to achieve in life. Similar to the #metoo movement is ‘Fall In Line’, which features Demi Lovato. In the music video the two escape a futuristic prison and eventually find freedom. Other lyrical contents in the album are love and sex, and sometimes, in Xtina fashion, some provocative attitude (reminiscent to her ‘Dirrty’ days).

Christina and Demi Lovato in the music video for ‘Fall in Line’

The album offers a lot. The change of style from track-to-track does not disturb the listening experience. However, some highlight tunes are missing now and then. A real banger, like ‘Fighter’ used to be one, is harder to find. And even though the album plays with nods of other music genres, it sometimes feels restrictive by making sure the album plays safe. Nonetheless, ‘Liberation’ is definitely worth listening to and brings something new on the table for 2018 pop music.

Highlight Tracks:

Like I Do (feat. GoldLink)
I Don’t Need It Anymore (Interlude)
Accelerate (feat. Ty Dolla $ign & 2 Chainz)

Full Track List:

1. Liberation
2. Searching for Maria
3. Maria
4. Sick of Sittin’
5. Dreamers
6. Fall in Line (feat. Demi Lovato)
7. Right Moves (feat. Keida and Shenseea)
8. Like I Do (feat. GoldLink)
9. Deserve
10. Twice
11. I Don’t Need It Anymore (Interlude)
12. Accelerate (feat. Ty Dolla $ign and 2 Chainz)
13. Pipe (feat. XNDA)
14. Masochist
15. Unless It’s with You

Promotional Single ‘Twice’

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