Christina Aguilera, "Lotus" (RCA Records)
Christina Aguilera is easily one of contemporary music's best voices. She's got pipes that music-lovers need to hear at a time when Top 40 radio features studio-enhanced vocals and award shows are full of lip syncing. That's why her fifth album, "Lotus," is somewhat disappointing -- not because it isn't good, but because it isn't great.
Sure, it's an improvement from 2010's "Bionic," a chaotic album that is Aguilera's only one not to reach platinum status. "Lotus" is more focused, thankfully, but not as satisfying as her first three releases.
The new 13-track album is the singer's first music offering since she filed for divorce two years ago. And when she's emotional, she sounds best.
The title track kicks off the album nicely as Aguilera sings about starting over. On "Best of Me," she sings: "Words cut through my skin, tears roll down my chin, my walls crumble within." And later in the song she sings in a beautiful belt: "I will rise undefeated, I will not let you bring me down." You just want to cheer her on. Sing it, girl.
Another standout is the piano tune "Blank Page," co-written by Sia, whose work with Aguilera on "Bionic" is that album's highlight. "Sing for Me," too, is great and sounds like a personal anthem for Aguilera, who has gotten a boost recently as a coach on NBC's "The Voice."
Where the singer falls short is on what are supposed to be the "fun" songs, like "Red Hot Kinda Love," "Around the World" and "Make the World Move," which features a barely heard CeeLo Green. The first single, the Max Martin-produced "Your Body," is also a miss. Martin is a little better on his other contribution, the dance-heavy "Let There Be Love," which sounds typical of what's out there, but still feels like a radio hit.
It's almost like Aguilera isn't getting the best material from the songwriters and producers on "Lotus," which includes Alex da Kid (Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie," B.o.B's "Airplanes"), Lucas Secon, Supa Dups, Claude Kelly, Bonnie McKee, Tracklacers, Steve Robson and others. Her excellent voice deserves excellent songs.