One of these days, when she finally tires of waving her fanny in your face, Christina Aguilera will be one of the best singers on the planet. Unfettered and unfutzed, her voice can be a multifaceted marvel, capable of all manner of octave-spanning derring-do and blues nuance. On 2006's retro juke jumper Back to Basics, she nodded to Billie Holiday and the Andrews Sisters. It was revelatory, classy, sexy — a former pop tartlet growing up.
In related news: On her new album, a robotic Aguilera heavy-breathes an ode to her vagina.
Released on Tuesday, the 18-track Bionic is dedicated to her young son Max. Heck, the little guy even makes a couple of cameos on the album. That's really sweet — until you realize his mother's first album in four years is a skeezetastic sexcapade of robot porn that goes out of its way to obscure her voice.
Classy Christina is gone.
XXXtina is back.
Hey, I'm no prude. I've sinned aplenty. Plus the 29-year-old Aguilera is one of my preferred pinups. But her insistence on flaunting her naughty bits more than her vocal chops is nothing but a waste of God-given talent. You know why Britney Spears dances around half-naked? Because she's talentless! She has no choice. If Brit-Brit doesn't shake it, she's scooping curly fries at Arby's.
It's not that Aguilera is lazy with her innuendo. She takes great swaths of time between albums, sweating over every detail. She also believes that she's offering a portrait of a complete woman: mother, wife, lover …stripper? "You know you wanna put your lips where my hips are," she taunts on Woohoo, the aforementioned V-song. "Whisper all your fetishes inside my ear," she hushes on Desnudate, which mixes rave beats and Latin horns but still sounds dull. "I want sex for breakfast," she purrs on, well, Sex for Breakfast, which is so stupid you'll want to give up romance and waffles.
The best of the club bangers is Elastic Love, produced by Fergie pal Polow Da Don, but even that ultimately irks: With all the future-shock effects, it could be anyone singing — like, ahem, Lady Gaga. It's not until the 11th track, the Linda Perry-penned Lift Me Up, when Aguilera quits with the moaning, dirty talk and cybersleaze and finally does some singing. It's not a great cut, but it's a start. So is the torchy All I Need, which is casual and understated and blessedly natural. Man, she could be so good.
But, alas, she prefers to be bad. The album ends with I Hate Boys, My Girls and Vanity, in which Aguilera is presumably getting paid by the word "b----." The final moment is a give-and-take between mother and son. "Let us not forget who owns the throne," Aguilera taunts. To which Max replies: "You do, Mommy." Someday that might actually be true — and let's hope Max isn't too busy with therapy to enjoy it.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.