You’ve got to hand it to Christina Aguilera: she’s cannily picked quite the list of collaborators for Liberation. Kanye West, GoldLink, Anderson .Paak… the credits alone are impressive enough to make us think this may be her glorious return to the pop throne.
Except those very credits are way more impressive than the album itself. And if the half-finished sound of the mix on Accelerate bothered you as much as it did us, you’re going to be just as distracted throughout this record. It’s not like us to pick up on the technical side of things, but the way Aguilera’s vocals are layered on Maria (painfully following a Sound of Music interlude) feels like a ramshackle long-distance relationship that never quite clicks.
Liberation doesn’t do Christina Aguilera justice, that much is certain. Right Moves lumbers her with a cumbersome trap beat (really, everyone? In this economy?); she almost feels like a feature on her own album on songs such as Like I Do, with GoldLink outshining her throughout. It’s not that she sounds uncomfortable – her voice is as strong as ever on Deserve – but she seems indifferent. These songs are plain, devoid of fire, and delivered like they mean nothing to her.
But there are moments when Christina Aguilera feels properly liberated. Sick of Sittin’ recalls her (admittedly brilliant) Nashville songs, even if the voice still bulldozes everything around it. Sadly it’s one bright moment in an immensely dull album, one that tries to take on contemporary tropes and falls flat every single time. If this is the sound of being free, we’d sooner take up residence in the Fritzl basement.