Artist: Christina Aguilera
After not releasing an album in six years it would be a stretch to not call Liberation, Aguilera’s eight studio album, a comeback – especially given the poor commercial and critical reception her previous effort Lotus received. However, even after a post-2006 discography with dwindling relevance, when any artist returns after a hiatus of this length of time the pressure is there to deliver. Thankfully, Christina, Liberation does exactly that.
Christina Aguilera is, and will always be, known for her voice: Her raw texture, her ability to emit emotion like no other & a meaty growl. To her fans, however, she is known as the woman that blessed the world with Stripped, an honest insight into what it meant to be a young woman trapped in a patriarchal world. Stripped transcended the boundaries of genre sliding from blues to soul, hip hop to Latin and gospel whilst taking us on a journey of sexual liberation, vulnerability and empowerment. Liberation takes us back to that place, to a time when Christina had something to say. One could argue Liberation is the second chapter.
Much like Stripped Liberation is a complete album rather than a radio friendly playlist that other pop artists tend to deliver. The album opens with two interludes, a string piece and a cover from The Sound of Music before entering into attention-grabbing Kanye produced tracked Maria. It’s clear that this album isn’t just about sexual liberation that Christina craved back in 2002 but about her journey of rediscovering and freeing herself. With the help of a young Michael Jackson sample to augment the childhood introspection this self reflection is a theme Christina further explores in Dreamers & Fall In Line, where she sings a message to her former-self just as much as she does to the young girls of today:
“Little girls listen closely, ’cause no one told me, but you deserve to know. That in this world you are not beholden, you do not owe them your body and your soul.”
Whilst Liberation doesn’t explore as many genres and styles as Stripped did its grounding in a Soul / Hip Hop palette, coloured with specs of reggae on Keida & Shenseea assisted track Right Moves, makes the album an easy and more fluid listen. Furthermore it is these alternative Rnb tinged tracks such as Pipe & Like I Do that are album standouts and leave us wondering why Christina led with mediocre single Accelerate.
Of course, as with every Christina record, we’re never short on piano ballads and Liberation closes with two: Masochist & Unless It’s With You. After an album of rediscovery and playfully sexual tones Unless It’s With You takes a surprising turn inviting us into a lyrically honest love song where Christina admits that love, albeit a little confusing and scary, elevates and frees her just as much as the previous tracks. Christina teaches us that a woman can be both in control of her destiny and sexuality whilst also surrendering her heart to a man. Neither are mutually exclusive and being blessed with both does not make you any less liberated.
It may have been over a decade since Aguilera released an album worth mentioning but it was most certainly worth the wait. Welcome home, Christina. You’ve found your way back to where your voice belongs.
Our Top Tracks: Maria, Like I Do, Pipe & Unless It’s With You