Christina Aguilera was part of the influx of many teen singers who debuted in the early 2000’s. Unlike many of them, including her constant counterpart Britney Spears, Aguilera was always been seen as the one who would prosper for years to come. However, somewhere along the line, those same well-wishers began to fade away as she released more music. It was not for lack of trying. Following her 1999 debut self-titled album, she has released seven more LPs, including a Grammy winning Spanish album, Mi Reflejo (“My Reflection”), a soundtrack album to the movie Burlesque with the diva of all divas, Cher, and even a greatest hits compilation, 2008’s Keeps Gettin’ Better. As the now 33-year-old prepares for the arrival of her second child, perhaps now is the time for her almost “forgotten” baby to get some proper mention. In this case, it is not an actual human being, but her last studio album, 2012’s Lotus.
Lotus was conceived during the turnaround in Aguilera’s career. Her music had not been selling well for some time, and her 2010 effort, the lambasted Bionic, was seen as a desperate ploy to stay relevant in an ever changing pop landscape. The album took the term “underperformed” to a new low. On top of that, she was going through a separation with the father of her first child, music producer Jordan Bratman (they would eventually divorce). People began to consider the singer, a young woman who once commanded attention with the power of her soulful voice, a has-been long before she had even began her fourth decade of life.
Rather than fully stepping back, Aguilera made a smart decision and took a career detour. She joined onto the NBC music reality competition, The Voice, in 2011. With her critiques on other young singers, she would inevitably turn around the public’s opinion on her. Of course, there was still the odd comment about diva behavior behind the scenes, alleged to be mostly stated from Maroon 5 front man and fellow Voice judge, singer Adam Levine.
Whether or not the rumors were true, it was Levine who would bring Aguilera back to music prominence by asking her to be a featured vocalist on his group’s massive 2011 single, Moves Like Jagger. It would give her the fifth number one hit in her career and at that time, her first top 10 hit in almost three years.
Following the popularity of Moves Like Jagger, Aguilera rode the wave into what would be the beginnings of Lotus, her seventh studio album. The title was symbolic of what she felt was a new beginning for her, a place that would allow her to shine just as strongly as she had in the past.
“I’ve been through a lot since the release of my last album [Bionic],” she mentioned to Yahoo! Music in 2011. “[From] being on The Voice [to] having had a divorce, this is all sort of a free rebirth for me.”
Even if Lotus was meant to symbolize a new start for her, it was obvious that she was also hoping to tap into her well-rewarded past accomplishments for inspiration. The album art for Lotus, which was unveiled in October of 2012, showed Aguilera posing nude within an open flower. It was a similar touch of nudity that was seen from the album cover for 2002’s Stripped. However, as there was an obvious connection between the lotus, a flower meant to symbolize life, and Aguilera’s posture on the cover, which had a strangely placed bright light to hide her nether regions, it became obvious almost immediately that things might not bode well for the album.
The first single from Lotus was a bass-fueled sensual jam called Your Body. The track had Aguilera’s steamy vocals in a call back to her down and Dirrty days, as she implicitly tells listeners that she wanted her special someone to “open” her “box,” among other blush worthy admissions. The song did fairly well and obtained the attention of listeners. The music video, which saw Aguilera as a temptress, who brutally ends the life of many male suitors (all violence in the video would be replaced by splashes of color, including a bludgeoning that ends in a glitter bath), would also help Lotus gain attention. However, that attention would dwindle quickly.
Although Aguilera would also appear on a few talk shows, such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the majority of promotional appearances for Lotus were relegated to nothing more than random performances on The Voice. One of the disc’s greatest moments, the dance floor anthem Let There Be Love, would be sung live by Aguilera and two other contestants from the show’s third season. It would also be performed as part of a medley during a forgotten performance from the 2012 American Music Awards.
Two other album tracks with great potential; Make the World Move and the country-tinged Just a Fool, would also only be seen on The Voice. In her only defense, both songs were collaborative efforts with two of her Voice co-judges, R&B singer Cee-Lo Green and country hit maker Blake Shelton, respectively.
Further single releases from Lotus were promised, but never fully materialized. The aforementioned Just a Fool, with Shelton, was said to be the second release from Lotus, but a video was never filmed and the song was sparsely, if ever, heard on radio. Oddly enough, Aguilera would actually gain another big hit thanks to the track, Let There Be Love. Although never officially released, the song, which was highly praised by critics and fans alike, would become her seventh number one hit on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart in 2012, although a video for the song would not see the light of day until August of 2013.
As of January of last year, Lotus had sold around 240,000 copies in America alone. Comparing that to her highest seller, 2002’s Stripped, which sold over four million units, it is easy to see that the comeback of Christina Aguilera failed on an epic scale, although the album was truly a valiant effort. With songs written by current chart topper Sia and great melodies produced by Max Martin, Lotus should have bloomed a lot fuller.
Even though the album did not perform as greatly as she hoped, the career of Christina Aguilera refuses to admit defeat. Thanks to the indie pop duo A Great Big World, as well as rapper Pitbull, she has since earned two more top-five hits with the 2013 ballad, Say Something, and the ready-to-party track, Feel This Moment. Just like Moves Like Jagger before them, the acclaim of the songs has sent the expectant mother back into the studio to work on album number eight.
Opinion by Jonathan Brown