Edition 30 October 2018, by Stephen Swai
If there is anything that Christina Aguilera is known for, of course apart from her big voice, is that she is constantly looking to reinvent herself and in the process, find her liberation. Look at her albums. Stripped was the unshackling of a teen pop bubblegum persona, Bionic was about getting in touch with her sexuality and Lotus was rebirth. We can’t forget the message in songs like “Fighter” and “Can’t Hold Us Down.” Her quest is unwavering with her recent release, Liberation, which debuted at number 6 on US Billboard 200. This release is considered as her comeback, following her previous two albums, Bionic and Lotus, which were considered as flops with their electro pop and EDM sound. The Liberation era finds her channeling a stronger and fuller voice with a Hip-Hop and R&B sound. In this 15-track album, Aguilera is restrained and in control, and at times she takes us back to what we have come to know her for: her vocal gymnastics and runs. For some, Liberation seamlessly delivers what “Stripped” would have sounded in 2018. The liberated Aguilera is finally back after having not released an album since 2012 or toured in a long time. The album starts off with Aguilera finding her true self with “Maria” that samples 1971 Michael Jackson number of the same name. The track which comes off as heavily sampled at places, her vocals clashing with Michael’s, delivers the memorable “So tired of painting all this makeup/’Cause it won’t hide my deep cuts.” Then it crescendoes into a chorus-weird “Tired of Sittin’” that has her cooing “I ain’t built for no fake shit” with a rock vibe reminiscent of her “Fighter” days. Aguilera’s liberation from patriarchy comes in the form of the feminist number with superhuman vocals “Fall n Line”, featuring Demi Lovato, ushered in by the “Dreamers” interlude. Aguilera tells little girls, “You are not beholden/You do not owe them your body and your soul.” The vocal gymnastics that ensues in the last part of the song proves why Aguilera is still the voice of her generation.
The album gets even better in the second half with a groovy Andrerson Paak-produced “Like I Do” featuring the rapid flow of GoldLink. “Accelerate” stands as the polarizing number among her fans since its release due to its weird sound. It is one of those songs that you either like it or hate it. However, the signature track for many of her fans is the last number, “Unless It’s With You.” The romantic ballad which is a liberation from singlehood, should be a staple at weddings as Aguilera delivers the run at the end “Cause I don’t want get married unless it’s with you” that chills the spine. In Liberation Aguilera sounds better and in control, delivering matured vocals destined for a diva with a legacy, not leaving behind her signature interludes, vocal gymnastics, vulnerabilities and her feminism. But even more special, Aguilera has delivered an album that is somehow restrained for those who criticize her for over-singing.