Christina Aguilera Credit: Luke Gilford

The musical catalog of Christina Aguilera has always been erratic and somewhat frustrating. Gifted with a powerful, operatic voice, she’s struggled to find material worthy of her natural talent. In her nearly 20 years as a solo artist, she’s never managed to make an album consistent enough from front to back to rival those of her Disney Channel peers, such as Britney Spears’s 2003 record In the Zone or Justin Timberlake’s 2006 release FutureSex/Lovesounds. That hasn’t changed on Liberation (RCA), her first album in six years. The record is too long and unfocused, and there’s no single that rivals the lascivious hook of her breakout hit, “Genie in a Bottle.” But for pop fans, it still has its pleasures. It’s always fun to hear Christina Aguilera display the full gospel power of her battle cry over some disposable dance beat, as on “Sick of Sittin,’” where she wails about how she’s not going to just sit by and let herself be constrained by people or circumstance, with the fervor usually reserved for sending prayers to the pearly gates. The slinky reggae-flavored “Right Moves,” which features Jamaican singers Keida and Shenseea, delivers a calculated but effective sexy charge that demonstrates that Aguilera can coo as persuasively as she roars: “Banging in my chest / I must confess / It’s not the only thing that’s pounding out.” On the same track the gigantically schmaltzy statement of eternal love “I don’t want a canary / Unless it’s with you” is as ridiculous and overwhelming as anyone could want something so excessively sentimental to be. And though Aguilera may never deliver a great album, her performance on Liberation suggests she’s in no danger of losing her voice anytime soon.   v