From its striking cover by graffiti artist D*Face to the ultramodern sound of its whirring synths and bumping beats, Bionic, Christina Aguilera’s fourth English-language studio album, is proof that the multi-platinum superstar and five-time Grammy Award winner hasn’t lost her knack for reinvention. Over the course of her 11 years as a recording artist, Aguilera has defied expectations by making sharp creative departures from her previous work on each of her best-selling albums and Bionic is no exception. With 18 tracks that encompass everything from racy club stompers, to playful pop anthems, to heartfelt, elegant ballads, Bionic is an album as multi-faceted as Aguilera herself.
“I am a singer, a songwriter, and a performer, but also a wife and a mother,” Aguilera says. “This album captures all of those characteristics by getting back in touch with my early pop roots but taking everything to a more sophisticated place. I knew when I was 15 that I would make a futuristic-sounding record someday, just like I knew I would make an inspirational record that paid tribute to soul, blues and jazz, as I did on my previous album, Back to Basics. So I was ready to do something really electronic and edgy with my music. It felt like the right time to do it because of my child and thinking about the next generation’s future. But Bionic has elements of each and every one of my previous albums, and in this way I’ve come full circle.”
To capture her various moods, Aguilera chose to collaborate on Bionic with a variety of artists and producers from across musical genres, including singer-songwriter Sia Furler (Zero 7), Christopher “Tricky” Stewart (Beyonce, Rihanna, Mary J. Blige), Polow Da Don (Usher, Fergie, Pussycat Dolls), John Hill & Switch (Santigold), Claude Kelly (Kelly Clarkson, Leona Lewis, Britney Spears), indie-rock band Le Tigre, singer-rapper M.I.A., and Linda Perry, who wrote Aguilera’s Grammy Award-winning smash “Beautiful.”
“Collaborating with such a wide range of writers and producers was so much fun for me,” Aguilera says. “I get a bit star-struck when it comes to people I really admire and respect, but my husband said, ‘If you love these artists so much why don’t you reach out to them?’ I approached the meeting process by saying, ‘I’m a huge fan of yours…I would love to step into your world and combine that with my sound and vision for the record.’ The results were magic.”
Bionic announces its mission statement right away with the title and opening track (produced by John Hill and Switch) on which she sings: “I am the future put it on you like a hurricane / Call me the supernova that’s taking over all time and space / I’m testing your dimension can’t keep up with what I create / Many times imitated not duplicated can’t be replaced” over laser-like synths and syncopated, hiccupping beats.
“It tells you exactly where I’m at in my life and takes you on a fun ride into the bionic woman I’ve become over the last decade,” Aguilera says of the title track. “The album’s title comes from the notion of being highly electronically charged and excited for the future,” she says. “It’s also the way I see women. We do it all. We give birth, we work, we raise our families, we hold down the fort. Becoming a mom before recording the album contributed to the ‘bionic’ concept of the album.”
Hot on “Bionic”’s heels is the album’s first single, “Not Myself Tonight,” which was produced by Polow Da Don (who also produced Bionic’s racy dancehall-pop track “Woohoo,” featuring rapper Nicki Minaj). The tribal-beat infused sizzler (which MTV News called “the kind of track you’d expect to hear rattling the speakers at the massive, multi-level clubs of Europe”) and its eye-popping Hype Williams-directed video were both inspired by Aguilera’s turn in the upcoming motion picture Burlesque. “‘Not Myself Tonight’ is all about freeing yourself, freeing your inhibitions, freeing whatever’s inside that you’ve been holding back,” Aguilera says. “It’s got a bit of rebellion in it, but it’s all in good fun.”
Aguilera continues to deliver for the dancefloor on several tracks produced by Tricky Stewart, including “Desnudate,” which Aguilera wrote for her Latin fans who have been asking for a follow-up to her 2000 Spanish-language album Mi Reflejo. “I promise it will come, but this is a little fun to hold them over,” Aguilera says. Then there’s the catwalk-friendly “Glam,” which was inspired by the friends the style-conscious singer has made in the fashion world, including her favorite designer, John Galliano. “I wanted to give him something he could send models down the runway to,” Aguilera says.
Bionic takes a turn into softer territory beginning with “Lift Me Up,” which was written and produced by Linda Perry. “Linda’s always on my go-to list,” Aguilera says. “She’s just an amazing artist and songwriter and we make magic together. When I first heard ‘Lift Me Up,’ I knew I had to interpret this song. It’s just a beautiful light of the end of the tunnel. Someone’s asking for a little help and guidance after feeling down and distraught. It’s a song I think a lot of people will find relatable.”
Aguilera also wrote several songs with Australian singer-songwriter Sia Furler and her collaborator/bassist Sam Dixon. “These are the songs I call the heart of the record, because they show the true, vulnerable side of me,” she says. “Nothing electronically driven was used on these songs, they are very raw and organic.” They include the piano ballads “All I Need” (“a really sweet lullaby dedicated to my son and the experience of pregnancy and giving birth”) and “You Lost Me” — a song Aguilera calls “beautiful, simple, and raw. The lyrics just hit me right in the heart and I knew I had to have it on the album,” she says.
Bionic shifts gears once again after “You Lost Me,” winding up with a trio of sassy, female-empowerment anthems: “I Hate Boys” (produced by Polow Da Don), “My Girls” (co-written and produced by indie-rock band Le Tigre and featuring a rap by electro vixen Peaches), and the strutting closing track “Vanity” (co-written by Claude Kelly and singer-songwriter Esther Dean, who also produces), which reminds listeners of Aguilera’s place in the pop hierarchy by closing with the line: “And the legacy lives on / Going strong / Let us not forget / Who owns the throne.”
The sheer diversity of the songs, Aguilera says, allowed her to challenge herself by using her voice in ways she never had before. Of course Aguilera is beloved for her powerhouse vocals and is the only artist under the age of 30 to included in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Singers Of All Time. On Bionic, she has never sounded better. As one critic was led to remark, upon hearing “Not Myself Tonight”: “Whomever might think that vocal prowess makes little difference in a mainstream pop song needs to listen once to Christina Aguilera’s stellar new single. She towers over much of the competition proving why she is frequently included in the shortest lists of today’s top pop singers.”
One of the most successful recording artists of the last decade, Aguilera has sold 30 million albums worldwide, including her 1999 8x-platinum self-titled debut, 2002’s 4x-platinum Stripped, and 2006’s chart-topping platinum-seller Back to Basics, which spawned the Grammy Award-winning single “Ain’t No Other Man.”
Not content to rest on her laurels, Aguilera is excited for the June 8th release of Bionic. I am so excited for my fans to hear the new sound,” she says. “It is something I don’t think anyone will expect.”