It’s been six years between studio album releases for Christina Aguilera and that’s a fairly long time between sets.
Speaking with a few friends around what they would expect to hear from a Christina Aguilera album in 2018, it ranged from ‘Stripped’ 2.0 to avoiding the sounds of now and looking to the future. As one of my friends said when I asked, “I’d expect good melodies, honest lyrics and big diva vocals”.
For me, Christina has always had a slightly checkered past with her album releases – quite often only having a handful of good songs on an album amongst a bag of clunkers, so on ‘Liberation’, I was hoping for a consistent approach.
It’s hard to match up to an album like ‘Stripped’ which saw her credibility and ability grow massively. So how DID Christina approach her eighth long player?
Well for starters, she began work on this album in 2014. Working with a variety of producers and writers across the four years on ‘Liberation’ meant she could take her time to figure out what she wanted to say and how to say it.
Surprisingly collaborations with Linda Perry and Pharrell Williams never made it to the LP; Christina instead focusing on working with newer artists. To some extent, it’s made a difference to the quality of the work.
Kanye West makes a couple of appearances on this album, as do MNEK, Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels.
Unfortunately, rather than creating a cohesive and unique sound, a large majority of songs on this album follow the trend for R&B or hip hop, which leads to some average tunes and a confused message.
There are also far too many guest spots from rappers which, for someone of Christina’s calibre, are completely unnecessary.
The great thing though is that there are some absolutely stunning songs.
‘Deserve’, for me, is the highlight of the album. Simple yet modern production allows Christina’s voice to shine. There are no crazy acrobatics here, just strong and powerful vocals with an honest and raw message. Singing about the complexities of a relationship, it’s relatable. The melody helps get this song stuck in your head and is a prime example of Christina at her best.
The final two songs on the album ‘Masochist’ and ‘Unless It’s With You’ are more contemporary mid-tempo ballads suited to Christina’s vocal chops. She sings both with an ease and honesty that changes these songs from being pretty ordinary to extraordinary.
After a really dramatic opening intro track, the ordering of songs completely lets this album down. It’s quite honestly a mess when listened to from start to finish because a lack of any overarching story or flow.
A quick shuffle around though improves things drastically and creates a powerful set of songs. I’d also avoid including ‘Like I Do’ or ‘Accelerate’ in any modified playlist as these are amongst the worst songs on this album.
The three interludes included are also completely unnecessary and very 1999.
Those of you looking for a powerful uptempo song won’t be disappointed either.
‘Sick Of Sittin’ is what ‘Fighter’ sounds like in 2018. It uses Christina’s voice in a completely powerful way. It’s gritty and has a strong message behind it. It’s shows she’s got fight and determination behind her and while it has a very rock-influenced sound, it doesn’t sound out of place.
Generally speaking, Christina sounds better than ever. She’s written some incredibly powerful and honest lyrics and created some great moments throughout ‘Liberation’.
Where she’s let down is through some very dated decisions on guest features, as well as the critical task of getting the order of tracks right.
Christina Aguilera is an important pop artist whether you like her ability to turn even the simplest songs into incredibly complex ones or not, so it’s great to see her back releasing music.
For my friends who described what they wanted to hear – it’s partly there. You just have to find it.
VERDICT : 3/5.
MUST LISTEN : Deserve, Masochist, Twice.