Christina Aguilera is back.

The pop diva returns with her latest album, “Liberation.” It’s her first album of new material since 2012′s “Lotus.”

“Liberation” debuts at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 200, giving Aguilera her seventh Top 10 album.

I had high hopes for this album. I’ve always championed her vocal talent. She came onto the scene with Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore. The only major difference between her and them was, Aguilera could sing. Her big voice catapulted her.

I remember hearing “Genie In A Bottle,” “What A Girls Wants” and ” Come On Over,” and thinking,“Wow, she has some pipes.” Those hits came from her No. 1 debut album, “Christina Aguilera.” It was apparent she was going to be a big deal.

“Stripped” was the follow-up. It was a stellar piece of work. “Beautiful,” “Fighter,” “Can’t Hold Us Down,” “Impossible” and “The Voice Within.”

Then came “Back To Basics.” This was Aguilera at her best. I played the 2-CD set constantly. It was the complete package. It had great songs, fantastic music and a focused Christina. “Candyman,” “Hurt” and “Ain’t No Other Man” led the singles, but it was the non-single track, “Mercy On Me” that remains my favorite Aguilera song. It is pure perfection. If you’re unfamiliar with the song, look it up.

With a track record like this, you’d almost come to expect albums that please. Her albums since have lacked that special magic we came to love and expect. “Bionic” was a flop, as was her “rebirth” album, “Lotus.” What happened?

I remember seeing a documentary clip with “Stripped” producer Linda Perry. It was Perry who kept Aguilera grounded during the recording of that album, and it worked. We got her in a more raw setting. Perry got the singer to leave theatrics behind and deliver the lyrics with a more raw perspective, even flawed in some aspects.

I want that Aguilera back. I think she is capable of greatness, even 20 years after her impressive debut. The problem is, she needs to get “out of her head” to do so.

“Liberation” falls far short of my expectations. The album was billed as her return to R&B soul. She might have a soulful overture, but she’s not necessarily a soul singer.

First-listen told me there wasn’t a clear vision. That tells me she was lost about what kind of album she wanted to make. This saddens me when you a talent this good.

The lead single, “Accelerator,” features Ty Dolla Sign and 2 Chainz. It’s so-so. For “Fall In Line,” Aguilera enlists the help of Demi Lovato. It’s OK. Both are powerhouse vocalists. “Like I Do” and “Deserve” are expected.

You have to make it through almost the entire album to encounter a few tracks worthy of excitement. “Twice,” “Masochist” and “Unless It’s With You” might serve better as singles. These three tracks could have appeared on “Stripped.“

What gets me, though, is Aguilera can go on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and sing Aretha Franklin’s “Think” in disguise in a subway terminal and nail it.

She tried too hard to liberate on “Liberation.” Why not just be Xtina? I’m no genie in a bottle, but it’s what this “guy” wants.
— David T. Farr can be reached at farrboy@hotmail.com.