Free and Queer: A Mini-Review of “Liberation” by Christina Aguilera and “Make My Bed” by King Princess

June 2018 marked a comeback and a humble beginning for two of my favorite artists— Christina Aguilera and King Princess. Since I really liked how my last music review came out, I decided to format this one in the same way. I have somewhat mixed feelings on both projects, but both are good releases. They just weren’t necessarily what I expected. As two of my most anticipated music releases of the year, I had pretty high hopes. But let me stop speaking in general and get right into the nitty gritty. Because when two of your favorite artists release new content, you’ll have a lot to say.

 

Liberation by Christina Aguilera

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If you asked me who my favorite singer was in middle school, my answer would emphatically be Christina Aguilera. Hell, I even wrote an extra credit paper on how she’s a good role model! So it was with no small amount of excitement that I anticipated this release. The promo singles gave me hope for a project akin to 2002’s magnum opus Stripped. And… that’s not what we got. Make no mistake, this is a good album. Great, even. But was it worth the five-year wait?

The comparison to Stripped is a natural one, especially given the album’s format and intent. Where Stripped’s purpose was to allow Christina to share her truth, Liberation is a coming home to her true self. Both bodies of work are simultaneously strong and vulnerable in a way the rest of her discography isn’t. However, due to the similarities, many of the tracks on Liberation sound like lesser B-sides to Stripped tracks that came sixteen years too late. “Masochist” is the catchier but less raw version of “Walk Away,” while “Accelerate” is a less brassy and shocking “Dirrty.” However, Liberation also raises the bar in ways Stripped didn’t. “Fall in Line” is a grandiose, empowering anthem for women, where “Can’t Hold Us Down” was a splash in the pan. A bop, sure, but not the declaration its successor is.

However, Stripped isn’t the only parallel this album draws. “Unless It’s With You” is the fluffier, more hopeful version of “The Right Man” from Back to Basics. Even though “Unless It’s With You” comes from the perspective of a person who knows first-hand how a marriage can fall apart, it is far more focused on the relationship itself and the potential of the future than “The Right Man” was. In this way, it stands as more of a love song than its predecessor.

My complaints regarding this album revolve around two things: the length and the vocals. This is Christina’s shortest album since her debut. Four of the songs on this record are interludes and there are no bonus tracks. After waiting five years for new music (and given her previous track record), I expected more songs than we got. The vocals, while excellent, don’t utilize Christina’s fantastic belting skills. While it’s nice to hear her range, I miss the diva she once was. I’m just not sure most of these songs will become as timeless as tracks from her previous records have (yes, even Bionic).

All that said, this is still a great album. It’s extremely listenable and self-aware. “Like I Do” acknowledges Christina’s sexual reputation (and experience); “Twice” asserts itself as one of her best ballads to date; “Maria” is an honest look until finding yourself again; “Sick of Sittin’” is a vicious growl of a song; “Pipe” is smooth and sensual, perhaps her sexiest song to date. Whether she’s exploring a dysfunctional relationship in “Deserve” or celebrating the man who knows how to please her in “Right Moves,” Christina commits and delivers.

Despite my moderate disappointment, this is still a fantastic record. I mean, I would recommend this album based on her duet with Demi Lovato alone. Whether you’re already a fan of Christina Aguilera or you’re new to the fandom, I highly recommend this smooth, honest body of work. Welcome back, Ms. Aguilera! I hope you’ll stick around with us for a long time to come.

 

Make My Bed by King Princess

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As a lesbian, I’m always on the lookout for Sapphic artists to support. Some don’t catch my fancy, but King Princess did. Make My Bed, thusly, was a release I was excited to see. And, much like with Liberation, I felt a little let down. It wasn’t the music that disappointed me— on the contrary, this is some fantastic alternative pop— it was the length. There are only five songs, two of which were singles she’d released previously. However, that’s pretty much expected. My only real complaint about length is in regards to the title track. It’s too darn short!

Yes, that’s right, kids. If “Make My Bed” were a full-length song, I would have no complaints about this EP. Petty? Maybe. But I need more King Princess music. Sue me (Please don’t. I don’t have a lot of money.).

As I said, this is soft alternative pop. King Princess’ voice is smooth and emotive, and her lyrics make you feel warm inside. Even when the song is sad, you just feel safe and happy listening to her music. King Princess covers so many aspects of a relationship, whether it’s the devastation after a breakup (“Talia”), the sweetness and daring of falling in love as a gay woman (“1950”), or sex (“Holy”). Each song exposes something not only about King Princess’ relationships, but about King Princess herself. She’s dominant, but also a hopeless romantic. In essence, she’s the embodiment of every vulnerable lesbian.

Honestly, this EP really just makes me want a full-length album from King Princess. If we could get one by the end of the year, that would be great. I can see this girl going far.

 

Even though I have some mixed feelings on both of these projects, they’re still great releases. Would I recommend them? Absolutely. Whether you want to break free from the ties that bind or pop out of the closet, these ladies have a perfect soundtrack for your life. And I thank them both for making music that makes me feel something so real and deep in 2018.

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