Whereas such Latin singing sensations as Selena and Ricky Martin built their followings by singing in Spanish and then crossed over to English-speaking markets, Christina Aguilera made her mark as an all-American pop princess before attempting to conquer the hemisphere. She's playing concerts in Mexico, Chile, and Brazil in support of her Spanish-language album, Mi Reflejo, and her revamped version of "Genie in a Bottle" (now "Genio Atrapado") earned a Latin Grammy nomination. In addition to introducing a new audience to her slim back catalog, Mi Reflejo appeals to her established fan base with seven new songs. Granted, only a relatively small bilingual number of her preteen enthusiasts will understand the words, but not many people listen to Aguilera for her lyrical content. They are there for her upper-octave acrobatics (Reflejo's tunes provide an appropriate forum for her full vocal range) and her unshakable melodies.
"This will make my grandparents proud," Aguilera has said of this project, and indeed the ballad-heavy album seems to have been made with grandparents in mind. Other than the saucy, horn-accented "Falsas Esperanzas" and the mildly percussive "Cuando No Es Contigo," the new tracks lack a pulse. Instead they pair her expressive, at times excessive voice with backdrops that make a standard elevator tune seem like a full-orchestra rendition of "Livin' la Vida Loca." None of producer Rudy Perez's songs approaches the depths of dreck-peddling diablo Diane Warren's nauseating "I Turn to You," which gains nothing in the translation to "Por Siempre Tú," but Perez's compositions are frustratingly bland, and the few promising numbers have been polished until they've lost their shine. Aguilera continues to improve as a singer, with both her dazzling bluesy growls and showstopping high notes displayed in fine form on "Contigo en la Distancia," but her dilemma remains the same in any language: She needs better material.