Between the unexpectedly soft first-week sales for her comeback album, Bionic,
While the negative press is nothing new (remember the public outcry over her explicit "Dirrty" video?), the less-than-stellar album sales, controversy over her sexed-up "Not Myself Tonight" video and the recent postponement of her tour are not adding up well. So what should she do next?
We decided to pose the question to some experts, all of whom seem to agree that Aguilera has bucketloads of talent — but also has her work cut out for her.
"She's still under 30, she still has a fantastic voice, but I think her time has passed. I don't know if it's because she went away for a while, or because she tried to do something different with this project, but it feels a little crass and calculated," Entertainment Weekly music critic Leah Greenblatt said. "From her choice of collaborators [The-Dream, Polow Da Don, Le Tigre] to her first single, it doesn't feel fully organic. What's missing so much with her this time out is that, while she can still sing the crap out of her songs, you don't get a sense of vulnerability, or even really know who she is."
"She just seems a little confused, and that's not like her, and it's not what we want from her," Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, executive editor of The Fader magazine, added. "The image she's been projecting, she just doesn't seem comfortable doing it. She's always done vamping, but now it's like 'I'm wearing these insane PVC outfits and singing to this music that I don't relate to.' No matter what she says, I don't see her sitting around listening to old trance records."
Both agreed that Aguilera should essentially do her — focus on putting out the kind of songs that showcase her strengths — and stop chasing her competitors.
"I think honestly, she's trying to be a little too Gaga, and it's not working for her," Shepherd said. "She's such a talented singer that she doesn't need to do what everyone else is doing. It just seems too forced and too in the mold of the Gagas and the Rihannas of the world."
"She's very much into the concept of 'the future' on this album, but the first single doesn't sound like the future: It sounds like a song they'd play in a spin class, circa 1998," Greenblatt said. "When you look at the other girls on the pop charts, it doesn't feel fresh. It's not compelling enough to pull herself away from the field. If you look at something like Katy Perry's 'California Gurls,' it's a retro song, but it's fun. There's a heaviness to the Christina album. She may say she's having fun, but you don't believe her."
Both Greenblatt and Shepherd singled out the M.I.A. collaboration "Elastic Love" as a potential game-changer, a song that perhaps best sums up whatever it was Aguilera was hoping to achieve on Bionic, and one that might reinvigorate a public that's grown tired of more of the same old pop. And both added that Christina should get back to basics (the title of her last album, as it happens), or maybe line up a new collaboration or two.
"She's got to re-calibrate her image, like do a fun video that treats sexuality as a garnish, not the entire meal," Greenblatt said. "If she reins herself in and releases the right single, things might be OK. There are plenty of artists who hit it big with the second, third single, and she's definitely big enough for that to happen here. People want her to succeed, she just needs to give us an iteration of herself that people like."
"I think that, maybe if she steps back a bit, tries to ease our of where she's going, and trusts herself more, she will probably be OK. I think it's just a bump in the road," Shepherd added. "Or maybe she should collaborate with all of Young Money. That would probably work too."
What do you think Christina Aguilera's next move should be? Let us know in the comments below!