Christina Aguilera (2018)Publicity
Credit: Luke Guilford

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It’s been six years since Christina Aguilera dropped her last album, Lotus. Since then, she’s been busy everywhere but the studio, appearing on NBC’s The Voice and caring for her two children, Max, 10, and Summer, 3. But the music drought is almost over thanks to this summer’s R&B/hip-hop-tinged Liberation, a bold new album from the 37-year-old pop star that drops on June 15. Aguilera spoke with EW about her return to the studio, working with Kanye West, and whether her “Dirrty” leather chaps will be making a comeback.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The album is called Liberation. What does that mean to you?
CHRISTINA AGUILERA: I wanted to have a title that meant freeing myself from anything that wasn’t my truth. That’s a constant I think in everyone’s life: every time you feel stifled in a current situation where you feel you’re not quite yourself or being bogged down by other people’s opinions. Or when you feel like you’re stuck in a stagnant place. I kinda felt like I was asleep at the wheel and going in autopilot for the past few years, not living up to my full potential and the purpose of why I’m living on this Earth: to sing and make music. So I’m getting back to that and getting back to my own personal truth. It’s almost like a new shedding of skin.

It’s been six years since we’ve had an album from you. What accounts for this break?
Having kids definitely slows things down [laughs]. I do take that job very seriously. I only felt like I could truly focus once they’re in bed and after the house was quiet. Thank god I have a home studio. But joining The Voice and being on television was a comfortable place — almost too comfortable after a certain amount of time. Just sitting in a chair all day is not personally, artistically rewarding. Doing TV is super time-consuming, especially on competitive shows. You’re juggling a team and you wanna be there for them and I take that very seriously. Having to do all the obligations that come with working for a network, you just feel like you’re being sucked dry and you’re not being able to truly do anything for you. Then at the end of the day coming home from work and having to [care] for your kids and making up for lost time. It’s just like, Jesus lemme get a massage and take a bubble bath or work on my record.

Or some wine.
Trust! It was getting too far away from the person I am or the person I ever wanted to be. All the things, behind the scenes, it just stopped being anything I truly believed in and it got away from what I originally had signed up for. So this album just encouraged me to get back to my truth and things that felt real and that little girl that was truly passionate about music in the first place before the business of it swallows you up whole.

You have a song on the album called “Sick of Sittin’.” Is that about those red swivel chairs on The Voice?
[Laughs] It’s not to be taken so literal. But trust me, there were days I think we all got sick of sitting in that red chair. I think in a sense it’s a shout-out to anyone who’s just sick of their daily routine and are just stuck in some way shape or form in their lives. I think there are so many moms out there who give up on so much because being a mom is hard and time-consuming. I think it’s important to keep our dreams and passions alive even if we dedicate a little bit of time during the day to ourselves. There’s a reason for everything and we all sometimes get seduced by a paycheck, but at the end of the day my passion and soul and integrity speak volumes more than just the material items.

The video for your first single, “Accelerate,” has you being covered in some clear liquid. What is that? Lube?
It’s glycerin [laughs]! It’s so sugary! It’s disgusting. I kept my mouth shut the entire time. It’s not that fun but it feels really cool on your body.

“Accelerate” and the song “Maria” are both produced by Kanye West, who’s made some polarizing statements recently. How was your experience with him?
When I first started the Kanye songs, it was before he even [released] Life of Pablo. Then, he went on tour. Look, he’s always said things that have stirred controversy and attention. I’m not getting involved in what he’s saying or anything like that. I know him as an artist. I do know that when we sat down and he played me these tracks, he got me. I think he’s an artist first and foremost and we’re not always going to agree with artists. I loved our initial meeting and we totally clicked. I found him to be very endearing.

You also teamed up with Demi Lovato for the duet “Fall in Line.” Why did you want to work with her?
I respect women who are no-nonsense and ballsy. She has a past that she’s overcome and I relate to that a lot. And she’s definitely been vocal about how I’ve been an inspiration to her and I find that so kind and endearing. I appreciate when women support each other. But I love the fact that I’m sharing this with Demi. We just fit together like an Oreo cookie. She’s so cute and amazing and we had so many similarities. Like, we’re the same height. She’s the dark-haired version and I’m the blonde-haired version. I also gravitated towards her because I needed a badass girl who could really blow and own the song with me. I needed someone who was gonna lock their knees and dig in deep and grind in there.

You’re also going on tour with this record. What can fans expect?
I think that it’s going to strip back a lot of the noise, to get to the bare minimum of truth and the real music and storytelling — the real nitty-gritty of going to a show. It’s exciting for me to experience putting on a show like this. Everything I’m doing right now is almost approaching things as a new artist with a fresh perspective. This is a different chapter in my life. I’m experiencing it with my two beautiful children who will definitely see a different side of mommy they haven’t seen. It’s gonna be fun. It’s gonna be challenging. But I just gotta get back out there and do what I’m meant to friggin’ do already. Sick of sittin’ [laughs]! And I wanna keep going. I don’t want to take another long gap either. This is like getting my feet wet. I’m getting back in my artist body, which is what I’ve needed to do for so long. I’ve been so glam for so long and that is definitely fun and I’m a performer at heart but right now I wanna get back to everything and show my freckles and strip it down.

Who’s a pop star out right now that you think is killing it?
Well I think she’s been killing it for a minute. Rihanna. She’s everyone’s favorite little badass.

Your fellow pop stars Britney Spears and Lady Gaga are doing Vegas residencies. Would you ever consider that?
I’m not gonna rule anything out. I’m a very spontaneous person. It would really have to make sense. I’d have to do it completely different in my way. I’ve never been a Vegas-y kind of girl [laughs]. I like to hit it and quit it. Get in and out. I need the comforts of home. I am a cozy queen. Like cushion-y soft, candles. Don’t get it twisted — that’s not being a diva, that’s just being comfortable [laughs]. Get me out of my sequin dress, off the red carpet, and into some cozy sweatpants or a kimono and I’m happy. Thank you!

But will you wear your leather chaps from “Dirrty” on the Liberation tour?
Maybe a modernized version. Chaps will never go out of style.