Better put a big X through any plans you had to see X-tina. Christina Aguilera has canceled her summer tour just days after it went on sale, citing "prior commitments." Most superstars check their calendars for conflicts in the period of months that a tour is being put together, not after tickets are already going over the counter. Which leads to the inevitable speculation that Aguilera's real commitment is to not playing half-full houses.
Not much word about ticket sales had trickled back before the tour was summarily axed. But initial indicators of ongoing interest in Aguilera this year have not been great. Her latest video, for "Not Myself Tonight," was widely derided in the blogosphere. The single topped out at No. 23 on Billboard's Hot 100; after just five weeks, it's at a very tepid No. 55 on the top-selling digital songs chart.
Bionic will be released on June 8. Pre-release orders on Amazon suggest a moderate level of interest in what was expected to be one of the summer's biggest sellers -- the standard regular edition of her upcoming album, Bionic, is at No. 396, while the slightly more expensive deluxe version is at No. 48.
Emergency triage measures are being taken, of course. A new single,"Woo Hoo," featuring Nicki Minaj, is being released to rhythmic top 40 radio today. Most significantly, Aguilera will perform on the American Idol finale Wednesday night, where it's presumed she'll sing the new, rush-released single and not the DOA "Not Myself Tonight."
Bloggers have seemed eager to turn Aguilera into something of a punching bag lately, pitting her against her supposed successor, Lady Gaga. Christina's oft-repeated, catty-sounding quote about Gaga in Out magazine—"Oh, the newcomer? I think she's really fun to look at"—didn't help in turning the likes of Perez Hilton against the battered, defending dance-pop champ. It might take a great album for Aguilera to pull herself out of this perceived slump... and with Bionic already leaking, it's not taking take long for further buzz to form.
Naturally, Live Nation's statement about the tour postponement simply painted her as a busy bee: "Christina Aguilera's summer tour has been moved to 2011 due to prior commitments that the singer had made to her film 'Burlesque' and to the promotion of her new album Bionic. The singer felt she needed more time to rehearse the show and with less than a month between the album release and tour date this wasn't possible."
If that's legit, it's hardly the first time someone's put a tour off because an album took longer than expected: Tom Petty also postponed the start of his summer tour after tickets had already gone on sale, citing the need to get his album done first. But Petty's tour was only put back by a month, not to the following calendar year. Fans and detractors alike couldn't help but wonder if a tour isn't the foremost promotion you can do for a new album. And the Burlesque film doesn't come out till November 24, which probably doesn't call for a demanding round of film press duties in July.
To play Aguilera's advocate, her (theoretical) tour probably does involve learning a little more choreography than, say, Tom Petty's. We just have a feeling she'll be doing all that dancing in smaller halls when or if we see her in 2011.
The bigger question raised might be: In a post-Madonna pop world that demands its divas reinvent itself every time they reappear on the scene, how many reinventions does Aguilera have in her? She went from teen-pop queen to "Dirrty" girl, then cleaned herself up—sort of—for her classier Back to Basics in 2006. But lately she's seemed more follower than leader. For the new tracks on her 2008 greatest hits album (which was sold only at Target), she went with the electro movement, territory that Britney and others had long since trodden. She doesn't have Gaga's flagrant willingness to remake herself every 10 seconds, nor Katy Perry's carefree charisma—and you can ask Jennifer Lopez how the whole diva thing is going over these days. In 2010, flogging her sex-bomb appeal again, she seems like a woman without an angle.
You'll have to forgive Aguilera: Commercially speaking, anyway, she's not herself this year.