A defining feature of Christina Aguilera’s career up to this point has been her willingness to try new styles, whether it be the retro influences of 2006’s Back To Basics or her forays into electro-pop on 2010’s Bionic. This continues through to Liberation which features a wide variety of sounds and producers, most notably Kanye West and Anderson .Paak. The songs Maria, Right Moves and Like I Do feature trap-influenced beats, while Accelerate dabbles in housey textures.
Conceptually the album has a loose theme of self-discovery, as expressed by the spoken word introduction (“Where are you? / Are you there? / Remember”) directed at herself and the similarly self-referential Maria. Things take a turn for the motivational with the raw, powerful Sick Of Sittin’ and the feminist anthem Fall In Line, featuring Demi Lovato, which carries on the lineage of Stripped’s Can’t Hold Us Down. In-demand songwriter Julia Michaels provides the album with two of its best moments, Right Moves’ sexual energy and Deserve’s emotional lyrics about an unstable relationship.
Brief interludes frequently set the stage for tracks, such as a Sound Of Music quote on Searching For Maria, a precursor to Maria, and a compilation of ambitious young girls on Dreamers, leading into Fall In Line. Meanwhile Aguilera’s voice is as impressive as ever, soaring above piano chords on Twice, purring coy come-ons on Like I Do, and it is distinctive enough to bring the disparate palettes and moods together.
Liberation ends with more of the reflection that characterised the album’s opening tracks, as Unless It’s With You touches on conflicting feelings about monogamy and independence. It’s an endearing ballad, one that leaves a lasting impression, and it is a very fitting end to an album that keeps pace with modern pop trends while remaining true to Aguilera’s past.