Christina Aguilera Bionic RCA
You have to feel a little bad for Christina Aguilera.
In 2007, when she finished touring for her last album, 2006’s “Back to Basics,” she was pretty much on top of the latter-day pop heap. Most of her contemporaries were either falling apart at the seams (Britney Spears) or dipping in popularity (Pink).
Fast forward to 2010. Britney stopped her career freefall and stabilized, Pink has elevated herself to international superstardom, and a little global phenomenon named Lady Gaga has pretty much hijacked most (if not all) of Aguilera’s edgy diva thunder.
It doesn’t help that Aguilera’s latest effort seems to be trying to catch up with Gaga’s freakish aesthetic in the album’s artwork and electro-pop sound. The result is more akin to the R&B and hip-hop hugging pop of Gwen Stefani sass than the electro bombast of Lady Gaga. Standout dance tracks include “Elastic Love,” “Vanity” and “My Girls,” the latter of which features a welcome guest appearance by Peaches. Other up-tempo songs like “Not Myself Tonight” and “Woohoo” are by-the-numbers party-girl affairs begging for all kinds of remixes and club play.
On the plus side, Aguilera still has one of the best and strongest voices in the business by a mile, especially when she dispenses with the studio wizardry and vocal effects. This serves her well on slow-burners such as “Sex For Breakfast” and soaring ballads like “All I Need” and “You Lost Me.”
“Bionic” is strong and solid, but whether that will be enough to put Aguilera back on top remains to be seen.
Cyndi Lauper Memphis Blues Mercer Street Records
The name and the title say it all. The eclectic pop icon dives deep into the blues for her latest album, and the results are convincing.
Fans looking for any trace of Lauper’s soaring and colorful pop side should look elsewhere. Here, she’s serious enough about the blues to immerse herself into the sound and collaborating with artists like B.B. King, Johnny Lang and Ann Peebles. As a result, she makes herself part of the group dynamic instead of the star of the show.
Lauper does an equally good job of getting the tone right on the upbeat as well as the somber songs. She belts out fun and rollicking numbers like “Just Your Fool” and “Down Don’t Bother Me” just as well as she nails the more-somber “Down So Low” and “Romance in the Dark.”
Lauper is at her best on this collection when she gets down on tracks like the Motown-ish “Don’t Cry No More” and the down-and-dirty stomp of “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.”
It’s official: Cyndi Lauper can do anything she sets her mind to.
Robyn Body Talk Pt. 1 Konichiwa/Interscope Records
“My drinking is killing me,” declares Robyn on “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do,” the first song of her latest release.
Not a bad way to grab our attention.
The first installment in the Swedish pop star’s planned “Body Talk” trilogy is overflowing with futuristic electro-pop. The efficient collection of eight songs has a lot of the quirk minimalism that Robyn’s fans have come to expect on tracks such as the funky “Fembot,” the soulfully ethereal “Hang With Me” and the beautifully sparse “Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa.”
But Robyn is equally electrifying when she swings a big sonic stick, like on the relentless Teutonic groove of “Dancing on My Own,” the trance-ish “None of Dem” and the robotic reggae of “Dancehall Queen.”
It’s a good thing parts two and three are both due out sometime this year, because “Body Talk Pt. 1” definitely will whet listeners’ appetites.