In 1999 Christina Aguilera released her self-entitled debut album, which may not have created quite the same splash as her pop peers like Britney Spears and 'N Sync, but established her as a force to be reckoned with and showed the world she wasn't just a product of good recycled marketing, but a real singer with a powerful voice. She even ended up edging out rival Britney Spears, and singers Macy Gray and Kid Rock for Best New Artist in 2001, which shocked both the world and Christina herself.
But it wasn't until her eclectic, very personal sophomore album Stripped that Aguilera showed not only the ferocity and elasticity of her vocal chops, but her power to provoke, inspire, and innovate. Mistaken as a representation of her newfound in-your-face sexuality, the title Stripped actually was indicative of the very personal, emotional lyrics found throughout the LP. She picked up another Grammy for her critically acclaimed Linda Perry-penned hit "Beautiful", the video for which garnered her an award from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for her positive images of gay people.
Inspired by jazz and blues artists like Etta James and B.B. King (videos can be found of Christina belting out these artists' tunes as a child), Christina decided to make a concept album based upon her love for the music, fused with the beats and melodies of today — in her own words, "'20s, '30s, '40s, with a modern day twist." The album, Back to Basics, was released in 2006 to favorable reviews (her best to date), and opened to her biggest first week sales ever. Entertainment Weekly, which gave the album a B+, said, "Few singers would dare attempt a song like the rock-tinged 'Hurt,' whose self-help bromides Aguilera delivers with melodrama that would make Barbra Streisand shudder; fewer still could make it so compelling." The New York Times praised her as well, saying “[DJ Premier's] production include 'Ain’t No Other Man',” the album’s glorious, mile-a-minute hit single, which proves once again that no one can roar like Ms. Aguilera. Unfortunately poor single choices and lack of promotion on her part due to her unexpected pregnancy led to the decline of the album quickly after her third single, and Back to Basics only managed to sell about 4.5 million copies worldwide.
Ultimately, Back to Basics wasn't quite what Aguilera promised and wasn't quite what many fans were expecting — myself included. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the album, I would've preferred if the lullabies on disc two had more resembled the ballads of the superior Back to Black from Amy Winehouse, as opposed to the cheesy, second rate ballads written by tired collaborator Linda Perry. Luckily for Christina, she had enough success with Back to Basics to spawn a hugely successful solo tour, which ended up grossing $85 million and took the top spot on Billboard as the most successful female tour of 2007. The tour received rave reviews from USA Today and the Los Angeles Times. It's worth noting that her tour with co-headliner Justin Timberlake in 2003 only grossed $45 million.
If all of that wasn't enough, after Michael Jackson pulled out of the James Brown tribute at the 2007 Grammys, Aguilera was asked to perform. She took the stage and performed an earth-shattering rendition of Brown's classic "It's A Man's World", which brought the crowd to their feet, and was named the third most memorable performance in Grammy history. Aguilera had her first child in early 2008 which received much publicity, and posed for People magazine with her son Max Liron Bratman, for which she received $1.5 million.
Fast forward to March, 2008. Aguilera's new favorite collaborator and adoptive big brother, hip-hop legend DJ Premier talked about Christina's new record, which it seems is already in the works. He says, "Me and her just clicked right away. And her work ethic in the studio, we're on the same page. She's one of the best friends I've ever known. And she can really sing." He talks in more specific terms about what to expect. "Me and her are working on her new album. We're doing five songs. She said this is gonna be a pop album. A fun pop album." It's unclear what exactly Christina means when she says that, as Premier points out himself. "I'm not pop. But when she says that — I know what she means when she says that. She said 'do what you did on the last one'."
Those who weren't a fan of disc one of Back to Basics might be hyperventilating, but remember that on this album Premier will not be limited to using throwback sounds to create his tracks, so you might see songs more reminiscent of his earlier work with Gangstarr. In a Q&A with her fans during her Yahoo Nissan Concert, Christina said she was playing around with a futuristic sound for her new album, and when asked who she wanted to collaborate with, she named Jack White of the White Stripes, and music visionary Bjork. Aguilera had just recently met White during the filming of the Rolling Stones' concert documentary Shine A Light, directed by Martin Scorsese, which hits theaters on April 4.
This next album could make or break Christina's career, as she slowly seems to be losing steam to less talented pop tarts like Fergie and Rihanna, who have hit after hit while Aguilera's last top ten was "Ain't No Other Man" in 2006, for which she received her fourth Grammy. Her former tour-mate and fellow Mouseketeer Justin Timberlake's career has sky-rocketed leaps and bounds above hers, and has even managed to garner more critical acclaim. Beyonce, who was an opening act for Christina with Destiny's Child many years ago, has also surpassed Aguilera's success thanks to her massive hit "Irreplaceable".
She now has an in-home studio, which will allow her to record even though she's a new mom, and she's recently been quoted as saying she's trying to get back in shape for her new album, which indicates she plans to release it fairly soon. Only time will tell if this big-voiced pop diva will be able to live up to her potential and finally catapult her career enough to where critics are no longer surprised when they see just how talented she really is.Powered by Sidelines