After stumbling vocally at Clive Davis' pre-Grammy bash Saturday night, I was bracing myself from the moment I saw Christina Aguilera make her diva-like entrance to the stage during the Grammy telecast. I knew she was singing the James Brown classic "It's Man's Man's Man's World" from a Gold Derby tip-off, but was afraid it was going to be a strained mess.
Christina Aguilera took the stage, and it was over. Forget about Beyonce, Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears — this girl mopped the floor with all of their wigs, took names, and didn't stop to apologize. Not since Mary J. Blige's jaw-dropping performance of "No More Drama" back in 2002 have I been so moved by a live television performance. Everyone around me was speechless.
Entertainment Weekly raved "Everyone knows Aguilera's got pipes — but probably not even her most devoted fans could've imagined her channeling James Brown with the magnetic fervor she displayed tonight." They go on to say "Crouched on the floor, clutching the mic stand, and belting full-throttle from beginning to end, Xtina didn't so much sing 'It's a Man's Man's Man's World' as she did unleash it on her mesmerized audience. This is the 2007 Grammy performance to remember; the Godfather of Soul would be proud."
People magazine held a post-telecast poll in which people voted on the performance, and 90% of those that voted claimed there "ain't no other woman like Xtina". The official Grammy press release boasted "The mighty Aguilera delivered a memorable, perhaps legendary, performance of James Brown's 'It's A Man's World'." The Post-Gazette said "In a tribute to James Brown, Aguilera, in dazzling white suit, offered a scorching (and screaming) version of "It's a Man's Man's World."
I enjoyed most of the performances Sunday night, especially that of the laughing all the way to the Grammy press room Dixie Chicks, but the Philadelphia Inquirer was less than impressed than I — with the exception of one woman. "Unfortunately, few of the performers made the most of their time, with many of the production numbers rehashing hits of decades ago, as if the music industry's best prescription for a troubled future was to listlessly revive the past. Exceptions included a knockout performance by Christina Aguilera on James Brown's 'It's a Man's Man's Man's World'."
After she tore up the stage with the scorching number where she did justice to the late great soul singer — emulating him like a pro — the entire stadium leapt to its feet. Jamie Foxx and Dixie Chick Martie Maguire were among those who looked floored by the electrifying performance. You could read Jamie's lips as he smirked and said "That's the shit right there", and Martie turned to the person next to her and said "Wow."
Within hours of the telecast, Aguilera's now Grammy winning album Back to Basics (she won her fourth for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Ain't No Other Man") shot from near #400 all the way to #23 on Amazon.com, and I would say expect that same kind of jump on the Billboard chart come next week.
Often criticized for her emotionless oversinging as she is for her sexy image, Aguilera surprised even me, a long time fan. She pulled this performance from the depths of her soul and spilled it all over that stage like it was her dying day. I was so speechless and floored by the performance it took me a few seconds to realize I had tears in my eyes.
James Brown is smiling in his grave.