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**Artist:** [Christina Aguilera]( **Album:** [*Liberation*]( **Released:** June 15th, 2018 **Label:** RCA **Listen:** [Spotify]( / [Apple Music]( **Features:** Demi Lovato, Keida, Shenseea, Ty Dolla $ign, 2 Chainz, XNDA **Notable Writers & Producers:** Kanye West, Anderson Paak, Jon Bellion, Audra Mae, Julia Michaels, Justin Tranter, Dumbfoundead, MNEK, Mike Dean, Charlie Heat, Bibi Bourelly, Teddy Geiger, Erik Hassle, LunchMoney Lewis, Ricky Reed — ## Who is Christina Aguilera? Christina María Aguilera, widely known as Xtina, was born on December 18th, 1980 in Staten Island, New York. In 1993, she joined Disney Channel's *Mickey Mouse Club* alongside fellow pop stars Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears. In 1998, she recorded the pop version of *Mulan*'s "Reflection" and was subsequently picked up by RCA Records. Christina proceeded to become a huge pop star with five Billboard #1s, 5 Grammy awards, and 75 million global record sales. "Xtina" was commonly known as the powerhouse vocalist of the noughties, and while she may not have much chart success anymore, she's become a staple in pop stardom. — ## Insight After the colossal flop that was *Lotus*, Christina put motherhood at the forefront of her focus. She kept herself in the public eye through *The Voice*, *Nashville*, and Oreo commercials, and her presence on radio was sustained by her collaborations with Pitbull and A Great Big World. Three years later, Christina released “Change” as a response to the still indigestible Pulse nightclub shooting. For over 5 years, Christina released droplets of great songs, but her fans were left clamoring for a new record. This hunger was finally satiated by the release of Christina's eighth studio album *Liberation*. The album journeys through her engagement, her motherhood, and her self-reflection after over a decade of non-stop performing. It’s in essence a sequel to *Stripped* - an R&B album that explicitly lays down Christina's beliefs, discoveries, and expectations. *Stripped*, however, saw Christina at her peak of fame - Christina had a visible spark and had to prove herself as a grown woman and as a musical juggernaut. *Liberation* sees Christina at her most vulnerable and comfortable state - past the self-conflicted Xtina in *Bionic* and the disappointingly impersonal *Lotus*. Xtina has nothing left to prove, and this complacence allowed her to make her most cohesive record to date. — ## Track-by-Track Review ### Liberation > "*Remember.*" The album begins with a beautiful, histrionic overture that introduces the album's themes of self-discovery and childhood. The song vividly depicts her process of remembering her true self with little words. ### Searching for Maria / Maria > "*So tired of painting all of this makeup / 'cause it won't hide my deep cuts.*" "Searching for Maria" references Maria Von Trapp from *The Sound of Music* and quickly segues into the next track, "Maria". "Maria" references Christina herself in third-person. The song samples young Michael Jackson's "Maria (You Were the Only One)", and it helps discuss the essence of Christina speaking to who she was as a child, "Maria". Christina is struggling to search for the part of herself before the fame, as she herself has said, "getting back to that little girl who just wants to sing for all the right reasons, not for necessarily charting, for all the things that this business kind of does to you over the years". The theme is backed up by Kanye West's very distinct hip-hop production: bell chimes, snares, and a guitar that comes and goes. Towards the end of the track, Xtina repeatedly chants "don't run away", signaling desperation to find humbleness in herself. ### Sick of Sittin' / I Don't Need It Anymore > "*The root of evil couldn't change me.*" "Sick of Sittin'" is highly reminiscent of Christina's *Stripped* sound with loud, brash pop rock Anderson .Paak production. In the first verse, she discusses her difficulties with raising children as a pop star. This ties into the theme of liberation, sick of sittin' in confined boundaries, but instead knowing no bounds to what she can do or say. "I Don't Need It Anymore" is a later interlude that solely features Christina's vocals, affirming her newfound sense of power. ### Dreamers / [Fall in Line]( > "*All the truth in a girl is too precious to be stolen from her.*" "Dreamers" is an interlude that features various young girls vocalizing their pursuits and assertions, almost as if Xtina is describing her own childhood aspirations. It leads to the Grammy-nominated feminist duet performed alongside fellow ^screamer vocalist Demi Lovato. The track begins with distorted vocals and chain noises; the production is very much reminiscent of producer Jon Bellion's own songs. The theme of being restrained (bolstered by the chain noises) ties back to the album's theme of liberation. "Fall in Line" is all the right kinds of theatric--the full level of extra that's expected from such a collaboration. ### Right Moves > "*Come on and pound it out.*" "Right Moves" draws inspiration from Caribbean music, even featuring Jamaican artists Shenseea and Keida. The two girls sing in Jamaican patois. The girls truly provide the vibe of the song so much that Christina feels merely like a feature. Straightforwardly: she sings about sucking dick ("just keep on going down") and getting fucked with the "right moves". ### Like I Do > "*Boy, you already know my story. / You were raised in all my glory.*" Yet another Grammy-nominated song, "Like I Do" has Christina being a braggart. Again, rather than being merely a feature, GoldLink is present throughout the entire track and adds to the coolness and sass Christina conveys. Christina has been through it all and demands respect from her lover. "Like I Do" is easily a highlight from this album due to how melodic and full of personality it is. Granted, "we can Marvin Gaye and get it on" is a tough lyric to listen to knowing that the same reference has been made in another song that no one wants to think of. ### Deserve > "*Tell the judge I'm guilty of instilling you with fear, by tellin' you I'm leaving when you know that I don't mean it.*" If you're wonder why this sounds like an MNEK song, that's because this *is* an MNEK song. MNEK's vocals can be heard in the chorus, almost as if he and Christina were duetting. Christina switches from singing with her lower register in the verses to belting in the powerful, lustful chorus. Christina's afraid that she's disturbed their relationship with her words of anger among fighting, and she needs affirmation that the relationship will still work, that she and her significant other "deserve" each other. This is my personal favorite because of how vulnerable Christina sounds and how infectious that chorus is. ### Twice > "*I will forgive them all of my wrongs and my rights. / I'd do it all again and won't think twice.*" Christina starts the song with just her voice, and lord, is her voice phenomenal on this track. She talks to herself, not knowing quite who she is, but still being comfortable with who she is and all the mistakes and losses she's had in her life. "I would do it all again and won't think twice", she says of all her past behavior. Whether her behavior was right or wrong, good or bad - she forgives herself and the people around her and bears no regrets. ### [Accelerate]( > "*We got moola, power, we on fire tonight.*" "Accelerate" was definitely one of the most poorly-received comebacks of 2018. Following the spectacular lead single that was "Your Body", this just didn't sound like a hit - or even a song. "Accelerate" is all kinds of chaotic, next to nothing about it makes sense on the first listen: why is the beat constantly changing? Well, the beat and Christina's flow constantly going from fast to slow shows... acceleration. What the fuck is that intro? I don't know. Why is Ty Dolla $ign on this track? I really don't know. But the mystique and nonsensical composition at least make for a fun song that backs up Christina's claim that she doesn't care much for making hits anymore. ### Pipe > "*Yeah, that's right, I'm stingy with my money and my own time / But when it comes to you, I'm always on time.*" Literally no one knows who XNDA is. His identity is kept a mystery, but fans suspect him to be Lewis Hamilton. Christina was sworn to secrecy not to reveal his identity. Christina has called this song foreplay; she's impatient and wants to quickly get in her significant other's pants - a Grindr hookup anthem of some sort. ### Masochist > "*Maybe I'm just too damaged to really know what's good for me.*" "You're so bad for me but it feels so good." We definitely haven't heard this theme a million times. At least Christina delivers this message without being vague. "I should go, I should go, I should go, I should go, I should go / Yeah I know, yeah I know, yeah I know, yeah I know, yeah I know" - the repetition in these lines in the chorus assure her feelings of doubt in the abusive relationship, but her attachment keeps her from leaving the relationship. The pain in her voice fortunately keeps Christina from sounding like she's glorifying this behavior. She knows it's best for her to leave, the only question for her is if she actually will. ### Unless It's With You > "*We don't need a big audience / Thousand people we never met / Me and you and a couple of friends*" During the Liberation Tour, Christina used this song as an opportunity for fans to propose to each other on stage every night. Christina states her fears of getting hurt in the first verse; she's so in love with a person and is afraid to progress into marriage but the power of love is difficult to fight. The song tells a story, from feeling afraid and lost to feeling ready to spend the rest of her life with the person she's in love with. This closes out the theme of liberation - Christina is confident in herself and her choices in life. She let go of her doubts, and looks forward about love and life with no hesitations. — ## Discussion Points * Xtina has been around in pop music for precisely two decades, how well has she succeeded in modernizing her sound? * "Accelerate" was met with hugely polarizing reception, but does it fit in the context of the album? Which track would've made a better re-introduction of Xtina to the general public? * Which track is the most true to her past music, and which crosses beyond her boundaries? * Is there any sound or theme you wish she ventured more into with this record? * Are there any tracks you believe could've been cut from this record? —