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Music Review

Christina Aguilera, Sarah McLachlan

Music Review by Chris Azzopardi (From GayCalgary® Magazine, July 2010, page 45)
Music Review: Christina Aguilera, Sarah McLachlan
Music Review: Christina Aguilera, Sarah McLachlan
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Bionic
Christina Aguilera

Whatever war that’s erupted on the diva front, Christina Aguilera’s shooting a bunch of blanks on her first album since her dirrty self went chic-retro. Now, on this futuristic pop piece, she’s one song away from picking up an STD – sexing-up the CD with randy ruminations on her confectionary bits (the nauseating oral-sex ode, “Woohoo,” with Nicki Minaj riding shotgun), reckless behavior (lazy leadoff “Not Myself Tonight”) and, forget Wheaties, “Sex for Breakfast.” Aguilera’s voice has always been her one-up card, and though she sounds full and forceful throughout, Bionic wants to be everyone else – especially a certain Lady. Knocks-offs like “Glam” and “Prima Donna” sound especially desperate to be part of 2010’s post-modern pop lexicon that Aguilera’s now clawing back into. And, if anything, her guest list – names like Peaches, Le Tigre, M.I.A. and Ladytron – should’ve been her ticket back to the top, but these collaborations beget gutless beats that stutter, squeal and pound. Never are they very memorable, though. Or, in the case of the dumbed-down “My Girls” and “I Hate Boys,” any good. Really, only songstress Sia sweetens Aguilera’s stale sound on a string of ballads – and if more of the disc’s Eurotrash was like the spastic, electro-thudding of “Elastic Love,” she’d have a better shot at bouncing back. Instead, she’s a stock robo-slut who needs to pop back into her genie bottle and find the magic again.

Laws of Illusion
Sarah McLachlan

Sometime within Sarah McLachlan’s sabbatical – and after her divorce – she had some of the best sex ever. Then she wrote about the orgasmic ordeal, calling it “Loving You is Easy,” forgettable fluff that’s as refreshing as a Mojito on a summer day and tries to reposition her as, say, a Sara Bareilles. But she’s not all rainbows and ponies, which is just the way Sarah should be – at least musically. Sure, “Illusions of Bliss” has a charming sweetness wringing from its percussion-stomped nectar, but McLachlan’s made Debbie Downer look delightful with a catalog that cuts to the core (why else would they have her do a PSA with sad little doggies?). Satisfying that niche is “Forgiveness,” a beautiful, wrenching love ballad that’ll make hearts sink. Much of the rest ignores trends and plays on that sumptuous, celestial sound that became McLachlan’s mode in the latter years of her commercialized career. She reclaims some of the Fumbling Towards Ecstasy edge, lacing songs – namely on the clamoring opener “Awakening” – with atmospheric electric-powered intensity, but the 12-track disc is bloated with ballads (two of which are double-dips from her hits collection). Some are wispy and don’t bind, but when they do, like on the ethereal “Bring On the Wonder” send-off, it’s no illusion; just the very real fact that not many artists can leave you as breathless as this one.

Also Out

Jewel, Sweet and Wild
Jewel’s all cute and cuddly on her second country CD, lassoing her sweet voice around these cowgirl cuts – both in regular and acoustic format – like she’s fixed on becoming Music Row’s all-in-one machine. She tries on Taylor Swift for “I Love You Forever” and aims for a big Carrie Underwood ballad on “Bad as it Gets” – most of it, the aging lament “Fading” being an exception, sounding as bland as flat soda. It’s not as bad as it could get, though: Remember her dance phase?

Clay Aiken, Tried and True
The title says it all: Songs from the Idol runner-up’s classic covers album are timeless, and the warbling daddy (like, he has a kid) doesn’t take them anywhere he shouldn’t. Flaws are few, too; his voice, which is great throughout, gets swallowed up on the Disney version of “Unchained Melody,” but otherwise he gives Claymates what they want. And he seems right at home doing it. Maybe too at home, actually. (GC)

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