Christina Aguilera has had a hard time of it in the past couple of years. 2010 was when we last heard from Xtina musically on her own and it was not a good year. Her album, Bionic, was an embarrassingly bad failure and her film Burlesque and its soundtrack did not exactly burn up the charts or the critics. While I enjoyed the HIGH camp of the movie and soundtrack, I will agree that Bionic was less than stellar. So, two years to gather herself, get on a popular music competition show and struggle with her weight and haters finds Ms. Aguilera defiant and determined to make her mark on the pop landscape once again. Lotus, her latest effort, should get her back in the game, if her former fans give it a chance. The first single, Your Body, was a little...well...."eh" is a word that comes to mind. It peaked at #34 on the Hot 100, but did get attention for its rather lurid lyrics ("love" replaced the expletive of the original lyric "all I wanna do is f**k your body" for radio). Your Body is not typical of the rest of the songs on Lotus and is certainly not one of its standout tracks. That honor goes to the amazingly catchy, begging-for-release Red Hot Kinda Love. Why this was not the lead single is beyond me, but I digress. It is bouncy, fun, free and everything a pop song should be. Lotus actually has quite a few strong pop tracks (Army of Me, Make the World Move and Let There Be Love are all radio ready) and a surprisingly Imogene Heap-esque opener, Lotus Intro, that finds Xtina is a no-riffing zone for once. Kinda nice and smooth and a nice change of pace from her hitting 1,000 notes when only one is needed. I guess we all kinda love her for that, right? Aguilera even dips her hand into the world of country, dueting with The Voice co-judge Blake Shelton on Just a Fool, which, in her defense, is just as "country" as most country artists these days. Now, the weakness of Lotus lies where most of her weakness had lied in her last couple of projects: The sappy-ass ballads. Yeesh! Enough with the gloopy, Hallmark lyrics already. These songs could have been left on the cutting room floor. Sing For Me, Blank Page, Best of Me and Light Up the Sky are exactly the type of songs that their title infers. You could practically write the song yourself by reading its name. Ugh. You're better than that, Christina. There are other moments that bring out that sassy little bitch we love, like the "F-you" of Circles (lyric: "spin around in circles on my middle finger" and it actually ends with the words "motherf**ker") and the military drummer Cease Fire. Overall the album is a step in the right direction from the Genie in a bottle of old, but the dime-a-dozen balladry is not going to get her any closer to the ever more elusive teen fan base you need to make money these days. Find some good songwriters to try something a little different, girl. That being said, the first six tracks in a row will keep you moving and are worth the price of admission to this ride. I like.