The release of her new album Lotus was supposed to be a glorious victory lap for Christina Aguilera. After the dual duds of 2010’s critical and commercial failures Bionic and Burlesque, the once-platinum-plated pop star set out to reinvent herself: She divorced her husband of five years, became a coach on the hit series The Voice, and recommitted herself to her music.
Only part of that plan seems to be working for her. While her visibility factor is way up thanks to the big ratings for The Voice, it’s still bad news at the cash register. Final numbers won’t be in until next week, but right now, album sales tracking service Hits Daily Double is currently projecting Lotus will sell somewhere between 75 and 80 thousand copies in its opening week.
Even if that prediction ends up being on the low side, it’ll still be hard to spin those numbers positively. Bionic was considered a commercial debacle but still moved six figures in its opening frame (selling 110,000 copies out of the gate). What’s worse is that Aguilera’s is projected to finish well behind next generation pop stars One Direction (who will sell well over 500,000 copies of Take Me Home, their second album released this year) and indie R&B darling The Weeknd (who is essentially selling a series of albums that were given away for free online a year ago). Any way you look at it, the results are rough.
But if The Voice is such a hit and the material on Lotus is crafted by the same people who send the likes of Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, and Pink to the top of the charts, what is stopping people from buying this new album?
The studio talent is certainly there. Lotus features contributions from Max Martin, Shellback, Alex Da Kid, Supa Dups, Claude Kelly, and Lucas Secon, all of whom have had massive hits with a number of pop stars. But despite its pedigree, the Martin/Shellback entry “Your Body,” the album’s first single, is currently languishing in the lower reaches of the Hot 100. Does that mean those A-list names didn’t bring their A-list material to the table? Let’s put it another way: If Christina had recorded Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” would it have been a smash for her?
If the answer is “No,” then perhaps Aguilera carries too much cultural baggage with her. Her personal style has always been a hot topic of conversation, she often fails to come across as particularly likable in interviews, and earlier this year got into a very silly media feud with the lads from the Wanted. But plenty of other pop stars do those same things and manage to get away with it. In fact, in the case of Pink and Minaj, those shoot-from-the-hip moments have arguably made them more popular than they have ever been.
Are people simply tired of Aguilera? The Voice has helped her regain much of the cultural cache she lost in the latter half of the aughts, but does that also mean that it has fulfilled the average Xtina quota? Stars have gotten mixed results from their involvement in reality shows. Among the other judges on The Voice, only Adam Levine has had a true chart-topping hit since he took his place in his spinny chair.
Aguilera’s counterparts on American Idol haven’t done much better;Jennifer Lopez got a bit of a singles bump but little else, and Steven Tyler couldn’t parlay his run into success for Aerosmith (whose first original album in 11 years sold a paltry 65,000 copies in its opening week). Still, Aguilera is on television weekly right now, and you would think that she’d be able to convert more than one half of one percent of that show’s audience into album buyers.
Whatever the reason, Lotus feels like the sad trombone at the end of this comeback trail for Aguilera. But what do you think? Why isn’t Lotus doing bigger business? Is it the styling? The shouting? Or something else? Tell us your theories in the comments.