Photo Credit: Jeffrey Ufberg/WireImage
Christina Aguilera's Bionic, her first studio album in four years, was one of 2010's most hotly anticipated releases. Although the 29-year-old has made only three previous albums, each spawned a giant hit record -- 1999's "Genie In a Bottle," 2002's "Beautiful" and 2006's "Ain't No Other Man" -- three tunes that will continue to be on heavy rotation. So naturally, when Bionic came out earlier this month, it was expected to shoot to the top of the charts.
But on Wednesday, Billboard announced that Aguilera's record had debuted at No. 3 -- selling far fewer copies than the latest Glee album and the Twilight Saga: Eclipse soundtrack. What happened to deflate Aguilera's rise to the top? The most obvious answer is that her buzz was killed by all the Lady Gaga comparisons. Her new look and dance-pop sound, plus her aggressively sexual new video, seem tame next to the one-woman culture war that is Gaga.
Of course, Aguilera is too talented to be pushed aside that quickly. We suspect that the problem has to do with something else: The album that she's promoting, and the album she actually released, seem like two different things. When Aguilera has explained the concept of Bionic, she says that the title refers to the superhuman ability that women need to do it all. As a new mom, Aguilera wanted to honor the way women take on raising families while living their lives. And we've certainly heard a lot about how motherhood has challenged Aguilera, how much she loves it, how it makes her feel sexy and fulfilled. That all makes sense. Women love being recognized for all those amazing things we do that nobody seems to notice. And an album that recognizes that new moms are sexy, amazing people? Bring it!
But then the album came out, and what's on the cover? Christina depicted as half-robot, half-glamour girl. That's not exactly the image of do-it-all feminism she'd been projecting in interviews. And the video for "Not My Self Tonight" -- featuring Aguilera clad in full-body latex, bound and gagged -- is far less sexy than chilly and alienating. Christina Aguilera has been gifted with an incredible vocal range, and she can bust out an empowering ballad like nobody's business. In interviews, we find her pride in being a woman and mother inspiring. So why is she giving us kinky dance-pop, robots and weird sex-slave imagery? The followup singles aren't out yet, but what we've seen so far just feels like a big bait-and-switch.
Not that there's any reason to worry about Xtina, though -- she still has one of the most amazing voices in pop, and the moxie to match. And who knows, maybe Bionic will end up surprising us -- after all, the amazing ballad "Beautiful" was hiding inside her grungy Stripped album, behind the lambasted first single, "Dirrty." We bet Aguilera already has something new up her latex-clad sleeve.
Do you think Christina Aguilera is sending mixed messages to female fans? Chime in below!