Christina Aguilera enters hipster territory as "Bionic" woman

Mon May 31, 2010 9:42pm EDT
 
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By Mikael Wood

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Inside a soundstage recently at Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles, Christina Aguilera was talking about the inspiration behind her 2006 album, "Back to Basics," on which she paid tribute to the soul and blues artists who inspired her to sing. Or at least that was what she started to talk about.

Seemingly out of nowhere, she was describing the process that led to "Bionic," her futuristic new disc. "Sorry," Aguilera told the 200 or so audience members gathered for this taping of VH1's "Storytellers." "I get ahead of myself sometimes. But they can edit this. Cut and paste!"

As it happens, "cut and paste" goes a long way toward describing the choppy postmodern vibe on "Bionic," due June 8 from RCA. A pronounced about-face from the warmly retro-fied "Back to Basics" -- which has sold nearly 1.7 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan -- the 18-track set contains beat-driven collaborations with a host of edgy dance-music acts, including M.I.A., Le Tigre, Peaches and Switch. More mainstream talent appears as well, in the form of Polow Da Don, Tricky Stewart and longtime Aguilera confidante Linda Perry.

To be sure, "Bionic" comes loaded with the requisite number of radio-bait hooks, not to mention a handful of stately ballads destined to appeal to fans of the singer's 2002 smash, "Beautiful." (That single's parent album, "Stripped," has sold more than 4.2 million copies, while Aguilera's 1999 self-titled debut has sold nearly 8.2 million.)

Yet with its grinding synth scapes and throbbing dance-punk grooves, "Bionic" also serves as a characteristically bold artistic statement from one of pop's least apprehensive superstars. As Aguilera puts it in "Not Myself Tonight," the album's lead single, "I feel brand new/And if you don't like it, f--- you."

'NOTHING TO PROVE'

"There's some rebellion to it," Aguilera said with a laugh, curled up in an armchair at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills a few weeks before the "Storytellers" taping. The singer, 29, had just finished a day of on-camera interviews, and at long last the heels came off and the hair came down. "But there's no proving element to me," she was quick to add. "At this point in my career, I'm over any and all weird comparisons or negativity."

Much of the early online reaction to "Not Myself Tonight" (and its racy, S&M-inspired video) wondered whether Aguilera was feeling the need to play catch-up with Lady Gaga, who's more or less come to dominate the dance-diva space in the years since "Back to Basics." "In these post-Gaga times," a post on New York magazine's Vulture blog asked, "can Aguilera carve out her piece of the pop-star pie?"   Continued...

 
<p>U.S. singer Christina Aguilera performs at her concert in Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi October 24, 2008. REUTERS/Mosab Omar</p>