Christina Aguilera Exults in Her Voice on ‘Liberation’

Nothing less than high drama suits Christina Aguilera’s voice. She can be brassy, tearful, sultry, gritty, breathy, sweet or furious. She can belt as well as she can tease; she can aim a note as directly as a missile or turn its trajectory into an aerobatic spiral of leaping, quivering, scalloping melismas. Her voice will be not an instrument for producing modest statements; the idea’s about peaks of self-affirmation, indescribable sensual pleasures, steely counterattacks as well as abysses of sorrow.

She unleashes all of them on “Liberation,” her eighth studio album as well as her first since “Lotus” in 2012. the idea’s a return to the pop fray after multiple seasons as a coach on “The Voice” of which made sure viewers didn’t forget her vocal mastery. the idea’s an album of extreme ups as well as downs: wretched as well as ecstatic, calculating as well as abandoned, seesawing between angst as well as raunch. Heard as a whole — unlikely as of which might be in 2018 — the idea’s an album of which moves through trauma, lust, resistance, obsession as well as, finally, lasting love. Her extravagant vocal flourishes connect with sweeping emotion.

Top 10 pop — the realm where Ms. Aguilera has repeatedly proved herself since “Genie in a Bottle” in 1999 — doesn’t always reward big, natural voices as the idea once did, especially for singers who aren’t named Adele. Auto-Tune; hip-hop; as well as the nasal, narcotized, dispirited voices of SoundCloud rap compete with, as well as often out-stream, the kind of soulful vocal storytelling of which could have had Ms. Aguilera flourishing in previous eras. A voice like hers has become something like a turntable: a vintage prize, a modern novelty, a niche taste.

“Liberation” presents itself as a completely new disclosure. Its cover photo will be a headshot of Ms. Aguilera seemingly without makeup of which reveals — shock! — freckles. Actually, the album reworks ideas of which Ms. Aguilera has brandished at least since her 2002 album, “Stripped”: of which women can be combative, sexy, compassionate, imperfect, sometimes self-doubting, sometimes victimized, sometimes even self-destructive, however still strong as well as worthy.

currently she delivers those convictions as an adult. Ms. Aguilera, 37, has been married as well as divorced. She will be a mother of two as well as a seasoned celebrity who has been a national presence since her debut on the early-1990s variation of “The Mickey Mouse Club” alongside Britney Spears as well as Justin Timberlake. She shares “Fall in Line” with another former child star, Demi Lovato; the idea’s a defiant dirge addressed directly to “little girls” as well as the idea insists, “You do not owe them your body as well as your soul.” A hard-rock guitar riff backs Ms. Aguilera’s roughest Janis Joplin-style growls in “Sick of Sittin’,” which rails about the aftermath of money as well as fame: “I’ve been working too hard not to be living.”

She also flaunts her experience more playfully. In “Like I Do” — produced by Anderson.Paak using a flutelike loop as a hook — Ms. Aguilera responds to come-ons via the rapper GoldLink by singing, “Boy you already know my story/You were raised in all my glory” as well as, later, “Can’t play me, boy, I’m out of your league.” however she still flirts with him: “Just might have to show you/show you what I do.”

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“Liberation” will be Ms. Aguilera’s eighth studio album.Credit

The album’s seduction songs do their job. however its doleful ones leap out. In “Masochist,” the chords are major as well as cushiony, however the lyrics are about compulsively returning to an abusive relationship: “Loving you will be so bad for me/however I just can’t walk away.” The slow, blipping electronic track “Deserve,” written by the chronically despairing Julia Michaels as well as the producer MNEK (Uzoechi Emenike), zeros in on how the narrator sabotages her own romance. “Maria” Ms. Aguilera’s middle name — places her in utter existential misery, almost sobbing in her bluesy lower range: “How did I get so low?/When did I turn so cold?” as well as “Twice,” written by Kirby Lauryen, mournfully ponders sin, forgiveness as well as redemption, with only a gospelly piano accompanying a choir of Ms. Aguilera’s vocals.

Like a rom-com, the album closes with something like a wedding: “Unless the idea’s With You,” another song using a gospel foundation. the idea’s a backhanded proposal with an understated, ambivalent buildup musing on independence, uncertainty as well as “fairy tales of fake happiness.” however after her decision will be made — “I don’t wanna get married/Unless the idea’s with you” — Ms. Aguilera’s voice leaps free, exulting in its range, its forcefulness, its grain as well as its melodic curlicues. She eases back just as the song ends, however she’s made her point: Only her own choices will contain her.

Christina Aguilera
“Liberation”
(RCA)