You say you want a revolution? Good news! Christina Aguilera has already armed the battle-clones for war on ”Army of Me,” one of many thundering self-empowerment anthems on her fifth studio album, Lotus. ”There’s a thousand faces of me,” she hollers. ”And we’re gonna rise up…/For every time you wronged me/Well, you’re gonna face an army, army of me.” Which begs the question: Rise up against whom? Is the whole world really out to get her, or is this just an excuse to wear camouflage hot pants?
If it sounds like Aguilera is in self-defense mode, that’s not a surprise. Since she released her 2010 clunker, Bionic, she’s gotten divorced, dodged tomatoes for her big-screen performance in Burlesque, and rebounded as a coach on NBC’s The Voice. But her mixed messages are too often unintentionally funny. After inviting America to ”turn down the hate” on ”Make the World Move,” an electro-soul duet with Voice costar Cee Lo Green, she spends the sassy kiss-off ”Circles’ telling her enemies to ”spin around in circles on my middle, middle finger.” And getting behind the bouncy peace-flag-waver ”Let There Be Love” is difficult when there’s a bonus track called ”Shut Up” that invites the haters to ”suck my d—.”
Backed by megaproducers Max Martin, Shellback, and Lucas Secon, and boosted by The Voice, Lotus should have been Aguilera’s mainstream pop comeback. Occasionally she can still power through a chorus like a Russian weight lifter (see: ”Sing for Me”). Too bad most of these tracks digitally smother her voice, draining all the emotion until she just sounds bitter. It’s unclear whom she’s mad at here. But somehow Lotus makes you want to root for the other guy. C-