Christina Aguilera, "Bionic" (RCA)
Nothing is less sexy than a coquette trying way too hard to be sexy -- unless perhaps it's a life-size sex-toy robot, which has moved out of the realm of cheesy science fiction (see that enduring 1973 classic, "Westworld") to become a reality in these digital times. But on her fourth proper studio album, former Disney pop machine product and aging '90s teen diva Christina Aguilera plays both roles again and again, while making a predictable shift from the jazz/cabaret pretensions of her last album "Back to Basics" (2006) and the toothless, radio-friendly R&B and dance-pop of earlier discs into toothless, radio-friendly electronica.
Everybody wants to be Lady Gaga these days, doncha know.
Enlisting a top-dollar roster of production talent, including Tricky Stewart, Polow da Don, and Le Tigre (an obvious bid for indie cred; their track also features a guest appearance by Peaches), the 29-year-old wife and mother sounds more like a corporate boardroom's conception of the "ideal" 19-year-old bionic hooker. Witness "Woohoo," which may be the most unappetizing invitation for oral attentions ever recorded. "You know you wanna put your lips/Where my hips are (woohoo)/ Kiss all my (woohoo)," Aguilera sings over a generic, percolating techno groove. "All the boys think it's cake"¦ You don't even need a plate"¦ Licky, licky, yum yum."
"I'm your supplier of lust, love and fire tonight," Xina boasts in "Desnudate," named for the Spanish word for "undressed," but there's nothing hot or inspiring in that track or in other over-baked come-ons such as "Sex for Breakfast," which abandons the electronica for a bit to pay tribute to notorious R&B pervert R. Kelly.
At least the sex songs provide some laughs, however. The same cannot be said of the obligatory, saccharine ballads (including "Lift Me Up" by that ubiquitous Hollywood hack for hire, Linda Perry), the nod to Madonna circa "Vogue" ("Glam," in which the singer passes on the wisdom, "Fashion is a lifestyle"), and the closing anthem of narcissism, "Vanity" ("Mirror, mirror on the wall/Who's the fliest bitch of them all?/ Never mind, I am").
The shame of it all is that Aguilera could well live up to that sort of boast -- she has more raw talent than any other Gen Y pop diva, and she's not only survived but thrived where so many others in her class have fabulously self-destructed (hello, Britney, LiLo, et al). But taste -- or, for that matter, genuine sex appeal -- is something that just cannot be taught or purchased.