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CD Review: Christina Aguilera – Back To Basics

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It's been It's been three and a half years since Christina Aguilera's well-received four-times platinum Grammy-winning sophomore album Stripped. It's a much longer gap in records than most fans of pop music are used to. But as Christina's been saying for quite a while – the album is worth the wait.

So often, in popular music, the records are single-driven. There are four to five good songs at most, and the rest, though decent maybe, are mere filler material. Double-disc Back to Basics is one of those albums where even if certain songs may not necessarily tickle your fancy – there is something for everyone. And even the ones that aren't for you, you must still admit, are great.

For this album, Christina drafted hip-hop producer DJ Premier who did most of the first disc, and former 4 Non-Blondes member Linda Perry, who produced a lot of Aguilera's second CD.  It's hard to say which of the two discs is better; they both have a different feel.  The first is sample-heavy – yet it's hard to know it.  Premier does such an excellent job of blending the old sounds with the new songs and Christina's instincts and newfound maturity both lyrically and vocally are flawless.

One problem with the album however — though it's not really the album's fault, more Christina's — is that it was said to be a throwback to the 20s, 30s, and 40s.  If you listen to the record, there are at most four songs that really accomplish that:  the authentic-sounding "I Got Trouble" (recorded with a cloth over the mic and Christina's whiskey-layered voice), the super-fast and funky "Ain't No Other Man", the fun "Candyman" (confirmed second single), and the racy "Nasty Naughty Boy".  The rest of the tracks, though many may be throwbacks – are not throwbacks to the 20s, 30s and 40s. 

Maybe she's confused about the musical eras, who knows.  But what's more important is that people shouldn't hold this against the album.  Because despite the misinformation Christina's given about the tracks, it does not detract from the fact that this album is golden.  There are points in this CD where I get chills from just how good the songs are.  The 90s Hip-Hop/R&B vibes are all over this CD and it makes tracks like "Slow Down Baby", "Back in the Day", and "Still Dirrty" so incredibly listenable while nostalgic all the same.

The Linda Perry-penned track "Hurt" and the low-key "Save Me From Myself" (which is one of Aguilera's best songs and vocal performances to date) take the sexy diva's music to a new emotional level.  There are times on the latter track where it's so incredibly personal I literally feel like Christina is sitting right in front of me with a guitar singing the song in my face.  With a quiet and vulnerable voice, Christina nearly whispers, "Don't ask me why I'm crying/'Cause when I start to crumble/You know how to keep me smiling".  Linda Perry has stripped down Christina's vocals to the hushed, intimate singing we hear on the record – wiping away the ultra-melisma divalicious over singing we're used to from Miss Aguilera.

And on the former she and Linda tear jerk like a good Shirley Maclaine movie.  "Seems like it was just yesterday when I saw your face/You told me how proud you were then you walked away/If only I knew what I knew today" Christina sings on top of a haunting yet heartbreaking piano melody — making the song a surefire number one hit on radio a la "Beautiful" success. 

Some may try to criticize Aguilera for "trying to be" Etta James, Aretha Franklin, etc. — but if you listen to the CD, what makes it great is that she's not trying to re-create old school artists' work — she's looking to them as inspiration and fusing their style with her new lyrics, melodies, and attitude.  On one of the album's best tracks "Back in the Day" pays tribute to some of these artists (incidentally many of them aren't from the 20, 30s, and 40s).  

 

So break out the Marvin Gaye and Etta James/Your Lady Day, and Coltrane/Turn up your 45's, bring back to life/The sound and vibe of yesterday/Open your mind, enjoy the ride,
Live out tonight and grab that Soul Train.

 

Marvin Gaye — 60s, John Coltrane — 50s, Etta James — 50s and 60s … Christina, you're confusing me.  Most of the people she names in the song are not from the eras she claims the album is influenced by.  But once again, this is irrelevant.  If someone just handed this CD to me today and I had no knowledge of how Christina had been promoting it – this criticism wouldn't even exist.

The album's strongest material comes from both the first and second discs.  There are songs like the gospel-influenced "Makes Me Wanna Pray", single-bound "Slow Down Baby", "Still Dirrty" – a continuation of her controversial "Dirrty" with one of the best beats on the album, Grammy-worthy "Hurt", "Save Me From Myself, and the dance-y "Candyman" (which includes a mind-blowing high note in full voice at the bridge).  But I have to emphasize that it's ridiculously difficult to pick standouts in an album of standouts.

In a market where her contemporaries (Britney, Jessica, Mandy) are either washed up or making crap, Christina has shown with the release of this album that she is the only one who really is "Here To Stay" (another track from the record).  Beyonce had better pull out whatever tricks from her glittery little bag (probably gaudily designed by Tina Knowles) this fall if she wants to survive because three-time Grammy winner Christina Aguilera has just delivered the pop album of 2006, and come Grammy time, I can't see her losing any awards she gets nominated for.  There are just too many diamonds here for anyone to settle for gold.

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About Chris Evans

  • Erwin

    I’m still bitter that “Stripped” was so underrated, but I’m glad that this new album will definitely find credibility as an artist for Christina.

  • SFC SKI

    Well, it’s about time she put out an album that proves she can sing without studio magic, and without her voice being wasted on throwaway pop.

  • Bianca

    I really adored Christina starting Genie In The Bottle…. And right now I’m so thrilled for her… The girl simply rocks!

  • goaway

    Had to bring Beyonce into this. LOL. Damn. Can’t go anywhere without seeing her name.

  • Olli

    Its a fantastic album…so much beautiful..LOL

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com Christopher Rose

    A lot of rock snobs, of which I’m one, have most unfairly dissed Christina’s last album, which was simply a brilliant collection of songs and some fantastic music. If this one is as good, it will easily make for another four years of excellent listening!

  • Kirsten

    All I Can Say Is : BUY IT !

    its an amazing and unique album, I love it

  • Sierra

    I am counting the days. Can’t wait to buy her CD. No need to compare her with someone else, she is just a unique singer with so much talent.

  • Tom Smith

    All I can say is that every singer should watch out for the best singer in the world Mariah Carey!!! Christina Aguilera cannot sing compared to Mariah Carey!!!

  • http://breathoffreshink.com Chris Evans

    Riiight…this is what has become of your precious Mariah:

  • chaz

    I’ve been listening for B2B for 3 days now, i must say that this album is her best ever! christina has really improved a lot specially with her voice its more powerful and has more distinct style. All the songs in the album are great like “Mercy on Me”, “still dirrty”, “Makes me wanna Pray”, “Save Me from Myself” “Slow Down Baby” “Candyman” and “Hurt”.
    though this album is not available yet, i was able to download it! haha! But i’ll grab one as soon as it hit the shelves!

  • Raul

    hola, Hi!, I dont know why the people here talk about Beyonce or Mariah, they are great singer, but: This review is for Christina CD???or them??
    Well, I heard B2B and for me is a diferent and special work: Bravo Baby Jane!!PD: thaks for this objetive article-

  • Kyle

    Its definitely one of the best albums this year out there. BUY IT X-Tina is MAXIMUM in this record.

  • Jayvee

    True. I also have the leaked copy although I’m gonna buy the CD as soon as it shelves. It is amazing and it has a style that maybe is old school but she’s not forcing us to like that kind of music, just putting us by the door to open it on our own. That makes it so much better and more credible for her as an artist. It is a good album for every track has something special. I guess taking time to make a record pays off because you get stand out tracks all around.

  • nate

    i heard it on MTV the leak today, and its really amazing. i really liked STRIPPED, but one is so much better, this is a career defining album. its so soulful the songs are sooo good.

  • FRANCISCO

    WOOO, I LOVED YOUR REVIEW…IT WAS GREAT, I’M NOT A CHRISTINA’S FAN AT ALL..I COULD SAY I HATED HER, BUT YOU JUST MADE DOWNLOAD A COUPLE OF SONGS AND I WILL SURELY GO AND BUY A COPY…YOU’RE RIGHT, THE SONGS ARE GREAT THOUGH I’D LOVE TO HEAR THE ALBUM COMPLETELY, I GUESS IS NO MUCH TIME LEFT TO WAIT…I’LL BE PREPARED AND I’LL BUY IT

  • Daditza

    Christina Aguilera is absolutely wonderful. The album has anything u want! And her voice is ….awsome!! She is the best female artist in the world at this time and it would be ashame if she will not take the Grammy!! Bravooo Christina! You’re the great!!!!!!

  • chanuo

    amazing review, honest, direct, and crisp… you are right on with the promotion of this album, as I did some reaserch on my own. Well… this album is amazing. It’s not really a “throwback” as I expected it to be, but the elements are there… you’ll feel the vibe and the zone she wants us to be when we listen to it. Was listening to “Stripped” last night and was just blown away again (wasn’t able to listen to it for 6 months SHAME ON ME). I really cant wait for the album!!! SIX LONG EFFIN’ DAYS TO GO!!! ITS TOO LONG!!! :-p

  • Bria

    Christina’s voice is PURELY AWESOME!! Mega Strong.
    B2B is her fourth album and by far HER BEST TO DATE.I thought ‘Stripped’ was terrific. But her single ‘Ain’t No Other Man’is good good good & worth the wait!Who cares if Xtina is too sexy-her voice will carry her through.”Britney and Jessica Simpson did you catch that?” “BTW-someone holla at Mariah Carey to give up the crown-Chrissy is in the HOUSE!”

  • dj

    i hope she can hit the high notes live this time around… i’m getting tired of her making aa lot of runs aand adlibs whenever aa high note is about to be delivered. hope her ssinging lessonns has taught her good tricks and techniqqques though. that remains to be seen.

  • Luisa

    I just don’t like her very much. I don’t like her look, her dancing, her voice- woo, woo, woooooooo…. She does have a powerful voice but her music always leaves me unmoved and unimpressed. Don’t care about her new look- she will never be a jazz great but instead is a morphed Disney performer selling Pepsi and continuing the Moulin Rouge routine.

  • http://breathoffreshink.com Chris Evans

    Luisa, you sound like one of those snobby critics Christopher Rose mentioned. I don’t know how you could possibly listen to “Beautiful” and be unmoved or unimpressed. If anyone wants to hear one of the songs, you can find it here.

    I’m pretty sure the whole album’s on MTV’s The Leak.

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com Christopher Rose

    Thanks for the link, Chris, please post any more you know of as the MTV stuff can only be viewed in the USA, grrr!

  • http://breathoffreshink.com Chris Evans
  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com Christopher Rose

    Coolio!

  • A. Jewell

    I very much agree with this review. I have often called Christina my “guilty pleasure” because of the pop starlet persona with which she was initially labeled, a la Britney, Jessica, etc. I felt a little less guilty after Stripped, though I must admit I slept on that album for a while. However, Back to Basics is so phenomenal, I now feel guilty for ever labeling Chrstina a guilty pleasure in the first place! The CDs are simply fanstastic and I will be jamming to them for a long time to come!

  • http://www.myspace.com/punkmyass Punkmyass

    I just downloaded all of the songs off of the new album and I am, to put it lightly, amazed. Wow!!

    Christina is one of those few classic artists that have come out of the past decade. She definately, vocally, lyrically, and professionally, has what is takes to remain in the Entertainment business for many years to come!

    Thanks for this review, thank you for giving credit where credit is due, and thank you for focusing on the music and not just the image an artist potrays.

  • Jonathan Villarreal

    I love christina aguilera. I am so excited for her. I havnt gotten the chance to listen to all the songs but i love “aint no other man.” She is great and i will be buying her album first thing this tuesday. :). please buy her album coming out Aug. 15. Christina rocks.

  • Xtina is B-A-C-K.

    THIS ALBUM MAKES 2006.. This is the best thing ever to land in music stores… She did an AMAZING JOB, can’t wait to go out and buy.

    <333333333 the review. :D

  • Erik

    well i have been listening to Baby Jane for about a week now…on mtv’s the leak..and all i have to say is dat i absolutley love this music…she’s bak and i can’t wait..her music really speaks to so many people..and to show her vocals…she has been improving and making sure she sounds amazing…i love the track ” Hurt” its so emotional and it shows her pain and releases it as well…i love her…i will be buying her or going to the signing on monday night or tuesdaymorning…i absolutley love it…

    so all these other people who are just here for image…make ur way out of the arena…cause mrs baby jane is coming out to show her new and improved self….

    bye
    out
    erik
    -The FlaMe Of LuSt

  • me_me

    i love her Back to Basics album more than any of her albums before..it’s so refreshing hearing something that we don’t get to listen to so often these days..it’s so catchy and really refreshing..her voice is flawless..i’ll guarantee she’ll win at least one grammy this year!!

  • coolcat

    i love christina aguilera i ordered her cd about a month before it came out to come on the 14th August when it came out in the shops and it never came. i just love her music she has a great voice keep it up christina!!!

    aged 13

  • coolcat

    I LOVE HER SHE ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GIVE ME HER CD NOW!!!

  • Xtina-fen

    I cant weit to buy the album tommorow ,the album is so good Baby Jane rocks

  • Michael

    I fell for Christina from day 1, and frankly..she just keeps getting better. I always knew she’d outlast Brittney, Jessica, and Mandy! I’m so in love with the B2B CD already! :)

    She is a truly amazing and talented artist. Her vocals send chills through my body, girl can sing! I’ve always said IDC about what she looks like…or what she does… cause she’s paid to be a great singer..and she does that damn WELL!!!!

    Can’t wait for Grammy Season!!!!!

    I’m going to the store at 12:00 Midnight to get this album!!! :) :) :)

  • Gaea

    I’ve been listing to this CD since it leaked on the 2nd and I loooove it. Christina did an amazing job. Can’t wait for the Candyman video.

  • jm2045

    amazing, amazing, amazing………….i think those people that say this album is over-produced are un-founded. she is in her best voice ever on these songs. i love still dirty, hurt, slow down baby, candyman, save me from myself, etc, etc, etc………….the girl better get multiple grammy nods.

  • marvz

    sobresaliente!

  • Maddi

    Marih is crap, shite infact. bring on xtina all the way, shes individual and doesnt sound like a dolphin…! x

  • Maurice

    Great review Chris. I am going to buy it today.

  • John London

    There is NOTHING in the market, to date, that compares to this album. Christina’s take on vintage sound is definitely something that will make OR break her. This album will take her to new heights (more Grammys?), and I dare her contemporaries to match this golden album! Reviving the old and recreating it by fusing a splash of the new is a harder task than “creating” something “new”. Christina shows a lot of her artistry, brilliance, and innovation through this album. None of the songs sound alike, she paints murals with her words, she draws every emotion at all levels, and reaches out to the young AND the old. Sorry to say, but Beyonce, Janet, and any other artist releasing albums this summer will have a hard time beating Christina’s *artistry*. Key word for this album is *artistry*. She has my vote for the Grammy’s ALL THE WAY. With this talent, she is definitely “Here To Stay” (one of her songs in the album ).

  • bossyboobs

    For that muppet who said mariah kicks her ass…

    Christina sung butterfly (hittin all the notes perfectly) in a talent contest as a KID! and won may I add… Mariah aint got nothing on Christina… so stop ya yapping n get ur facts ryte…

  • http://polkadottedbullet.blogsopt.com noooyAnne

    thanq for the review. i like the cd, but there aren’t variety in the cd itself, the album sounds like a very long track!

  • Ryan3074

    Christina Aguilera is an amazing singer. Her new album is fantastic. It certainly win a Grammy. Even the Stripped album, though it was underated, was amazing. But her best vocals are definately on Back To Basics.

    Go Christina x

  • deano

    i love christina she rules the roost. what i dont understand tho is why you ideots out there come onto this forum and start critisizing her. WHY THE HELL ARE YOU ON THIS FORUM. go and listen to your H.I.M rubbish or what ever else you listen to. Christina is so good ive waited for this album for so long. although i dont like it as much as stripped (yet) i still love it to bits. my second fav album.

  • lynne

    Probably will get an award on the GRAMMYS for Best Pop Album
    this album is off the chain!!

  • Kelly

    people really need to learn how to spell things and how to use correct grammer when writing these things!, Anyway I think ‘Back to basics’ is really great, i agree Mariah Carey has a brilliant voice as i have many of her albums as well as all of Christina’s and for me it would be unfair to choose between them as they are individual artists with different styles.

  • raven

    Britney, jessica, mariah, Where are you know?.. scared huh cuz CHRISTINA is back.. Kelly i think you should back off if you dont want to lose the grammy..

  • philippines

    the true diva is back so watch out

  • raven

    sorry if i wrote “know”.. it should be “now”.. hehe.. my bad.. PEACE

  • raven

    ain’t no other voice like christina aguilera

  • http://omernos.blogspot.com omar

    EXCELLENT review! you really did a great job up there.

    I was wondering why you didn’t mention the fact that her fan song wasn’t quite dedicated to her fans, it was to show how glorious she was inspiring all these people. that’s just my tiny note on the album, other than that, I can’t help but get shivers from the violins of “Welcome” and seriously go back with the ‘funky’ sounds of “Back in the Day”

    Great Artcile! :D

    omar

  • Attache

    Xtina Rocks!!!!!!!!!!! she is an amazing singeR! her latest album is already #1 in 3 different countries ;)….sorry madonna! but its now time to lead the way to christina!

  • http://dsfs adfjed

    Ugh – first we have unneccessary comparisons to Beyonce, then the usual Mariah mess, and now a Madonna one? Christina said in her Billboard interview that she draws inspiration from her. So stfu about all of that crap.

  • Zaya

    Ilove her new songs.I feel another listening her cool songs.
    Good luck! Christina!!!!!

  • Matt

    Christina spends too much time supposedly being ‘inspired’ by Madonna – when she actually means ‘copying’ Madonna.

    This album is a rehash of I’m Breathless – it’s not an original idea at all! It’s been done before.

    Sadly Christina will last and uninformed individuals will believe she is ‘original’ purely because she is good at copying someone else.

  • http://@plasa masayu

    luv u n chayooooooooo………^_^

  • Ronald

    I liked ‘Aint no other man’ and i bought her album right after i heard it. Christina is the best and the most potent diva!

  • Christina

    I just love Christina Aguilera’s new album,it’s my favorite album of the year.Once I got it I was listening to it everyday,even my mom likes it which is a little weird, but hey who can blame her.The best songs on the album are,Ain’t No Other Man,Understand,Welcome,Hurt,Save Me From Myself

  • ron

    i don’t like her sorry but the album is like a rip off. i mean hurt sounds like a song for you… she’s going down admit it… britney’s bway light years better… christina’s gone look at wikipedia her sales are so low… she’s going down i mena way down

  • John

    The CD defines what artisty is. Beyonce’s B’Day is just an album to sell records… it had catchy songs, danceable tracks but Christina’s record really the one that stands out.. the one which shows pure artiosty and talent… she had great voice too.. she’s definitely gonna win multiple grammy for this record..

  • Pia

    The thing about the album is that Christina shows her talent.. great voice of the new generation.. it’s like Whitney Houston meets Mariah meets Etta James.. She’ll win a GRAMMY. I would think GRAMMY’s a shit if Beyonce or Nelly bet her in any category.

  • Michael

    her voice is so inspiring… I never heard such a great voive since Mariah Carey.. I think if she cn prctice more… she can hold the title as the gretest voice… Love her b2b album..

  • http://837987498759347 Beyonce

    OMG!!!!!Beyonce is so much better than Christina Aguilera.Beyonce has the best songs ever.I really cant wait until she is going to come to Toronto for her tour.As i was sying Beyonce has way better voice and her album had sold way more than Christinas.So PUKE TO CHRISTINA FAGULIRA!!!!BEYONCE IS WAY BETTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • blue

    Christina aguilera rocks. All u haters wish you sounded as good as her. So stop hateing and start loving, cause she aint going anywhere. Christina is one of those true artist that sells her talent, not lack of like others in the industry. Chris keep doing your thing. Those grammys are yours!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Chris

    I am really disappointed…only 2 Grammy nominations, I wish all the best Christina.

  • http://www.myspace.com/eiffel84 Brandon

    Haha! Britney is a tired old mother showing off her beaver in public and gaining weight, while Christina is in her hot 60’s well put to gether maralyn monroe look.

  • Hot_Chic 101

    I lUv ChRiStInA bUt I aM aLsO a FaN oF tHe SiM aNd ShE’s On SiM sUpErStAr AnD i DiDn’t No WhO sHe WaS bUt NoW i Do AnD sHe ROX !!!!!!…….. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and I don’t care wat others say She Rox

    Beyonce’ okay but compareing her to Christina you must be very outgoin Iluv P!nk aswell OMG did yous here P!nk Got pissed at beyonce’ for wearing real fur You go girl P!nk and Christina rox 4 eva

  • Brittany

    I can’t stop listening to this album. Right after listening “Ain’t no other man” , i was truly impressed by X’s vocal voice. I don’t think we should mention Brits or Jess here. They NEVER CAN be compared with X

  • XXXtinarulZZZ

    B2B really is a great album, no doubt bout it. christina is amazing, she keeps on blowing me away, the songs are great and there are MANY of them. 22 songs!!!! this is greeeat. u just cant turn on MTV w/o seeing chrisitna. she is very successful now and u know what? she should be. it was so obvoius she will kick ass.

  • j3ssiica

    Christina as gta av the best voice goin. her songs r gr8. keep ya hed up..

  • sashbash

    Christina is the most amazing & talented singer in the world! & the best part is that her songs sound natural..not robotic like Paris Hilton! Agh!

  • magdensik

    I love her soo much! shes gr8 singer! hev voice is emazing1 im glad shes oriiginal not another pop girl or r&b singer!!

  • jollis

    Yup, I’ve got to agree with your excellent review – Back To Basics is nothing short of sensational! The soft and personal vocals on songs like Saving Me From Myself are in a class of their own; contrast that with the thermonuclear power delivered on Ain’t No Other Man, and you have something nobody – absolutely nobody – else is delivering today. Bravo, Christina!

  • Ouboet

    THE BIGGEST LOAD OF CRAP I’VE EVER HEARD – I DIDNT KNOW SCREAMING WAS THE NEW SINGING

  • Monacomike

    Love the album, it’s always on, she’s always brilliant. I LOVE her, she inspires deep emotion.

  • http://agui!!!! tomas circosta (tomarse lmao)

    shes bloody awesum i cnt wait till she tours ova hear….. another great record…… keep em cumin!!!!!!!!!

  • marlz

    i luv her b2b cd im 1 of her biggest fans and i goin 2 her concert soon luv ya christina AND STAY ON TOP.

  • Addy

    While I was reading most of the reviews and this article, I noticed several points and counterpoints I both agreed and disagreed with.

    I do love Christina’s voice and always have, despite that I’ve not always liked all of her earlier music. It never fails to amaze me how such a huge voice can come from such a tiny person (height/weight-wise)! She’s like dynamite – small package, big impact!

    I did enjoy this album very much, and leaving aside the majority reason being that her vocal presentation was just off the charts, I enjoyed the “throwback” style even if it was a copy and/or misrepresented in advertising and promotion of the album. Anytime an artist *successfully* captures the “soul sound” of an earlier time, it is a true gem. Some styles and sounds are timeless, and in a day and age when many artists shoot for the popular consensus, the hottest beat, or the fastest rap (although I do like rap as well…), it’s refreshing to have someone make that genre fit in today’s age and bring back some of the heart and soul of times past.

    What I really don’t get are some of the comments… Mariah and Beyonce have nothing to do with the artist or album. All three are incredible vocalists and deserve greater praise for their accomplishments despite whatever popular media crap is floating around.

    Addy

  • Me

    Christina Aguilera is one of the best singers in the world whoever doesnt think like that is a jealous and stupid twat

  • Me

    One of the comments out there is that Christina can’t sing comparing to M. Carey. That’s obviously a lie and so bitter and horrible. So people sort yourselves out and open your ears a little bit.

  • http://stripped-inside.blogspot.com shimma

    christina’s amazing. comapring her to mariah? yeah sure, mariah’s great. christina can’t sing like her but neither can mariah sing like christina. which makes christina an established singer. her voice is astounding.

    love you!

  • natasha

    ur da bestttt:)