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Bionic Woman: Christina Aguilera

I find it funny that while a Christina Aguilera backlash occurs across the county, fueled by the venom of Perez Hilton, that I am seeing the singer’s talent much more clearly. A few months ago had you mentioned Xtina and Gaga in the same sentence I would have most definitely opined on the subject. Gaga was the clear star. The new winner. The heir apparent to Madonna. She was smarter in her pop references than Xtina, she could actually sing, Ms. Spears, and she was not created by a record company. She created her own looks. And songs. And hooks.

But I am tiring of Gaga’s costumes and art references and flamboyance. I cannot believe I, someone prone to dress up and put off people, is writing this. But Gaga is no Grace Jones. She’s no Leigh Bowery. Hell, she’s no David Bowie. She’s a pop singer. I wish she’d not forget that.

So along comes back Aguilera. And everyone thinks she’s ripping off the looks, and sounds, of Gaga. And what the critics fail to see is that everything everyone does in pop is borrowed. Beyoncé from Diana Ross. Madonna from Debbie Harry. Gwen Stefani from Cyndi Lauper. It is what pop singers do. And Gaga is a master of borrowing. From Madonna, Hitchcock, Warhol, Tarantino, Bowery, Jones, Bowie. She’s a master at it. And I am a fan.

Gaga’s voice is amazing. Emotive and strong. But listening to Aguilera’s new album Bionic you realize that vocally they’re on different levels. What Gaga has over Christina (the authenticity of creating her own look and writing her own songs) Christina makes back with raw vocal talent. Not everyone has to write songs and create personas. Sometimes divas should do what they do best: sing.

And yes, Aguilera is prone to vulgarity and even tackiness. Five songs on Bionic are forgettable, even laughable. But a significant part of her fan base requires this slutty Christina. It is the same gripe I have with Madonna. In catering to a significant portion of her fan base, she creates lackluster material. I’ll take “Pokerface” any day over “Not Myself Tonight,” Aguilera’s techno-pop I’m-glam-and-a-freak-too anthem. It’s not bad. It just is not as smart as Gaga’s disco stompers. But when Christina’s on, my God, she’s on. And not since “Beautiful” has she been on as much she is on interpreting the Sia-penned “All I Need,” “I Am,” and the gut-wrenching “You Lost Me.”

On “I Am” she sings she is timid and a lioness and it’s clear she is both. She sings “love me or leave me” and she could be singing to a lover, but methinks Ms. Aguilera is singing to her fan base. She’s raw talent. She’s imperfect. And she’s going to inevitably be compared Lady Gaga, fairly or unfairly.

Her voice washes over the electronic softness of Sia’s work. Sia’s own songs always seemed unfinished, too rough. But Aguilera polishes the edges with her vocals. They shine, and crack, and they’re beautiful.

Leave the monocles and metal corsets to others, dear. You have that voice. That’s all you need. Dress it up and wear it out.