F2K10 is a countdown of the 20 worst songs of 2010. Track our progress here.
Christina Aguilera hasn’t had a great 2010 on the pop-star front. Her sprawling, android-inspired album Bionic was met with a mixture of confusion and indifference, although its 18 sex-soaked tracks did indeed show off Aguilera in full-on android mode, with her voice bending and twisting in ways that seem more determined by the scratch-track vocals provided by her wide range of collaborators than they do her own pipes. Listening to the deliciously weird (and M.I.A.-penned) “Elastic Love,” it’s hard to not think that maybe the final mix swapped out Aguilera’s vocals on the verses for Maya’s; meanwhile, on the songs penned by the oddball singer-songwriter Sia, one can actually hear Aguilera figuring out how she should contort her mouth in order to make her voice shape-shift into her collaborator’s.
It wasn’t a complete failure of an album (in part because of the aforementioned songs), but it certainly caused some consternation on the commercial front; the sexy-by-numbers lead single “Not Myself Tonight” peaked at No. 23 on the Hot 100, and the album sold about 250,000 copies between its June debut and her inaugural bow last month on the silver-screen in Burlesque. Bionic‘s stalling presaged a canceled tour that was, according to declarations from her manager Irving Azoff, being called off so the singer could focus on Burlesque, which co-starred Cher and which was going to be Aguilera’s arrival as a Serious Movie Star. (Now it seems more likely that she will be remembered for going the clothed Elizabeth Berkeley route more than anything else.)
Included on that flick’s soundtrack is the overtitled “The Beautiful People (From Burlesque),” which, sadly, does not contain Aguilera’s take on Jason Mewes’ interpretation of the track. The song does use the towering riff and monster drum loop from Marilyn Manson’s thrashy 1997 crossover hit–which, by the way, is still a monster, and probably the reason this entry isn’t in the top 10–and the dissonant guitars trade off with a tinkly piano, over which Aguilera’s robotic voice sings about watching, yes, “the beautiful people.” (Celebrities, you know.) The two bits trade off, with the roboticized Aguilera loudly musing about how she can’t decide whether or not to be jealous of these people. The existential dilemma is never resolved, alas, because the song just ends with her singing about the way “everybody wants a piece,” hits her mandated glory note, and kills the lights.
The song’s robopop sprawl makes it feel like a Bionic outtake (even 18-track albums have to cut the fat); the way she throws down her pouty half-raps on the verses even recalls the voice she took on for that album’s Le Tigre collaboration, “My Girls.” (It’s hard to not wonder if the song’s been kicking around the pop-star world for even longer than that; as it turns out, one of the 10 writers officially credited on the song is none other than F2K favorite Nicole Scherzinger, the former Pussycat Doll whose Her Name Is Nicole was one of the top “endless turnaround” stories of 2007, and whose furtive baby steps toward shedding her bandmates quickened a bit when she won Dancing With The Stars last spring.)
“Beautiful People” certainly is an interesting failure, and slightly more listenable than other songs on this countdown because of its trainwreck capacities. But one wonders if Aguilera should listen to her own “Beautiful” on loop before making her next big career decision, seeing as so many of her unfortunate ones have seemed to come from places where she ignores her windstorm-inciting voice and pop star bona fides.