Thursday, June 7, 2012


Hey Little Dreamers! I'm Sam Lansky, pop scholar, and this is Pop Think, my weekly column dedicated to shining a light on the oft-ignored corners of the pop music universe. Let's get to it:

Is there a pop album from the last several years that was as unjustly sh***ed on (to borrow sentiment from Nicki Minaj) as Christina Aguilera's Bionic? The big-voiced chanteuse's sixth studio album received mixed reviews and underperformed commercially, while her image took a beating in the press for being messy and misdirected, even though the record was, at times, precociously brilliant.

So, surprise! As your resident pop apologist, on the eve of the two-year anniversary of Bionic's release (time flies, doesn't it, kids?), I'm traveling back through time to take a look back at Christina's wildly misunderstood, sometimes-genius Bionic—and reflecting on how the ferocious songbird, who's found a new life as the HBIC on "The Voice," had a surprisingly forward-thinking approach on her last album.

Expectations ran exceptionally high for Christina Aguilera's album Bionic, with a list of top-shelf collaborators both mainstream and indie; big names like Tricky Stewart, Ester Dean, Nicki Minaj, and Polow da Don were joined by more alt-leaning voices like Ladytron, Le Tigre, Santigold, Peaches, and Sia, for a sound that promised to be diverse and collaborative. But that left-of-center sound was missing from the album's debut single, "Not Myself Tonight," an aggressive stomper that drew comparisons to Lady Gaga and peaked at a decent-but-not-great #23 on the Hot 100. The second single, "Woohoo," featuring Nicki Minaj, topped out at a dismal #79 on that same chart, and the final effort, "You Lost Me," failed to enter the Hot 100 at all — Christina's first single to do so. Quietly, and without much fanfare, the Bionic era drew to a close.

So. What went wrong? Her collaborator, Daniel Hunt of Ladytron, blamed RCA, saying bluntly that Christina's label "f***ed up everything" when it came to putting together the final album. And while it's always convenient to blame the label for the faults of an artist, it did certainly seem as though Christina's original artistic vision — to create a distinctively fresh product — got muddled somewhere along the way, perhaps by the overreaching commercial expectations of a chart-conscious team.

But Ladytron was right -- most of the album's best tracks were relegated to the bonus tracks only available on the deluxe edition of the album. And what's startling is how thrilling most those songs are two years after their release. If the tracks on the standard edition were modern but fairly pedestrian, split neatly between uptempo, hypersexual club bangers like "Desnudate" and "Glam" and weepy ballads like "Lift Me Up" and "You Lost Me," the songs on the deluxe edition are forward-thinking and even timeless, galactic pop with subversive, ambient production. The hand-claps and dissonant layered vocals on "Monday Morning," co-penned by San by Santigold, evoke the '80s with subtlety and charm (it wouldn't sound out of place on Ladyhawke's first album). "Bobblehead" is a dazzlingly weird rap-and-percussion diss track, and the Ladytron-produced "Birds of Prey" is a masterwork of sinister bad-trip anxiety. My personal favorite, though, is "Little Dreamer," the iTunes bonus track, another Ladytron collab, which walks the tightrope between wistful affection and melancholy grief, and shows off Christina's vocals at their finest: Powerful, emotive, and more controlled than the melismatic belting for which she's frequently recognized.

In its own way, Bionic neatly illustrates the dangers artists face when aggressively trying to keep up with "current" music: Mainstream music is a runaway express train hurtling itself toward the trendiest end of the pop music zeitgeist. As a result, futuristic pop track can already sound dated by the time it's released. And even when they don't, those chart-chasing songs don't age particularly gracefully. But two years after the fact, Bionic's moments of greatness remain about as good as it gets. On her next album, I'm gunning for Christina to show us that side of her, stronger than ever.

Source: MTV Buzzworthy


  1. I am so glad that people finally realize that it was an underrated album and that none payed the attention it deserves. Two years later and I'm still blowing my speakers to the sound of Woohoo, NMT, Bobblehead and all the 23 tracks. I've shown it to many friends lately and they're like, wow, this album rocks!!

    1. It's great to see that people are finally listening to it without little voices telling them that it's 'shit'.

      Who knows maybe she will decide to release a song from it in the future.

  2. I always felt and still do feel that in 10 year years time Bionic will be seen as one of the best albums of the decade. It's going to become a cult favorite I can tell. There are so many undiscovered songs on the album that up and coming fans will discover in the future and realize "Oh my god how have I not heard this before"

  3. I agree birds of pray and Monday morning brought life to the album even songs like desnudate and elastic love would have been good singles

  4. I listen to this album everyday and to be honest it is a masterpiece, I am greatful Christina came out with such diverse music! The bonus songs are breathless and the tracks such as glam and desnudate elastic love have amazing beats! Let's not forget she owns the throne, tell me one female or male artist who has done pop, rock, rnb, dance, hip hop, jazz, blues and electric! NO ONE but Michael Jackson and Aguilera