Album Review: Christina Aguilera’s ‘Liberation’

What is Christina Aguilera feeling emancipated from? you may ask, digging into “Liberation,” her first album in close to six years. One track offers some tantalizing clues. “I ain’t built for no fake shit,” she wails, almost gutturally, over rock guitars and faux crowd noise produced by Anderson .Paak. “It’s good pay,” she additionally points out, but “I can’t move with these chains on me / I had to get free. … This ain’t a game to me.” The song title: “Sick of Sittin’.” Now, if it were any other star expressing an animus toward chairs, we might think she was speaking figuratively. But it doesn’t take much reading between the lines to divine that this openly disenchanted ex-“Voice” jurist really has written one of the few breakup songs ever to celebrate splitting up with a TV show.

There are other titular connotations along the way. Deliverance from the patriarchy, for instance, is the theme of “Fall in Line,” the feminist duet with Demi Lovato that had its live premiere on the recent Billboard Music Awards show. Truth be told, though, Aguilera could have named almost any of her previous records “Liberation,” since she’s usually advancing a reactive narrative every time she releases an album, whether it’s freeing herself from innocent teen pop with “Stripped” or freeing herself from being seen as a rootless sexpot with “Back to Basics” or going electro with “Bionic”; even 2012’s underwhelming “Lotus” was “a rebirth.” The gorgeous cover art for “Liberation” promises another kind of real-deal breakthrough, with the onetime “Naked” singer embracing nakedness in makeup and a freckles-and-all ethos.