Christina Aguilera has a great voice, yet she can be a terrible singer.
As is her tradition, she runs the gamut on her new “Lotus” — which in some ways is a showcase for a professional pop star who knows how to turn it out; though in others, it’s an example of bombastic overindulgence, the last thing an expert on a singing show should advocate.
But that’s the mixed bag that is Christina Aguilera, a judge on NBC’s “The Voice.”
The singer is at first impressively multi-dimensional on “Lotus,” her reined-in vocals dovetailing into the electro-swirl of a headtrippy opener that hints at experimental stuff to come. And it does come, early on: For example, Aguilera has rarely sounded more playful than on the inventive “Red Hot Kinda Love,” where she works “la-la-la’s” and yodeling into textured layers of irresistible, shuffling rhythms.
Meanwhile, her histrionic delivery is effective in conveying determined strength on the persuasive dance track “Army of Me” (“Yeah, we gonna rise up!”), it makes a valid counterpoint to softer passages on the piano-based “Blank Page,” and she gets similar bellowing support from fellow “Voice” judge Blake Shelton on the powerful duet “Just a Fool.”
Still, even though Aguilera’s fans embrace her overwrought style, she would doubtless broaden her audience if she practiced more nuance and restraint. (Surely she’s heard of Adele.)
As it stands, Aguilera’s default setting is to blare at full-tilt, and when the bloom fades on “Lotus” and arrangements trend toward the generic, the performer sings her guts out to no positive end. Occasionally, as on the shrill “Let There Be Love,” the assaulting “Cease Fire” and the numbing “Around the World,” her voice sounds like an aural warrior hellbent on shredding the eardrums of her listeners.
Aguilera has been doing this since she was a teenager in the late 1990s, when she felt compelled to prove she had chops her rival Britney Spears couldn’t match. But just because she has the pipes doesn’t mean she should incessantly blow them.
Rating: 3 stars (out of five)
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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