Christina Aguilera – StrippedAugust 28, 2010 at 10:27 am | Posted in Christina Aguilera | 4 Comments
Tags: Christina Aguilera, Lil Kim, Redman, Review, Stripped, Xtina
- Stripped Intro
- Can’t Hold Us Down (featuring Lil’ Kim)
- Walk Away
- Primer Amor Interlude
- Loves Embrace Interlude
- Loving Me 4 Me
- Make Over
- Get Mine, Get Yours
- Dirrty (featuring Redman)
- Stripped Pt. 2
- The Voice Within
- I’m OK
- Keep On Singin’ My Song
Without a doubt Christina’s sophomore album, Stripped, is her most iconic piece of work. She took creative control of the album, something that most mainstream pop artists at the time hardly did, and co-wrote 14 tracks and was even involved in the production. Stripped is a far cry from her debut album as she completely moved away from a manufactured pop sound to a real and more sophisticated sound. Gone was the good girl image that her label had her play for her debut and instead she became provocative and controversial. Just like the title implies, Christina stripped down and laid herself bare, literally and figuratively, for the whole world to see. The album contains many musical styles ranging from pop, hip-hop, soul and pop rock. Stripped is a journey to a dark and raw side of Christina that many people never knew about. This is the point in her career where she stopped being a typical pop artist and became a true artist.
Stripped Intro is one of the best introductions I’ve ever heard and it’s a perfect way to open the album. The intro is a collection of negative news reports about Christina that leads to a male reporter saying “we’re gonna let Christina tell her side of the story.” Christina then enters and states “I’d like you to get to know me a little bit better/meet the real me” which is followed by her saying what she is and isn’t. Too bad this is only an introduction because it could have made one hell of a full song. Christina tackles urban and hip-hop for the female anthem Can’t Hold Us Down (featuring Lil’ Kim). She takes a bold stance and challenges the double standard of society, “so, what am I not supposed to have an opinion/should I keep quiet just because I’m a woman”. There weren’t many, if any, songs at the time dealing with this subject and most female pop artists avoided it. Christina voiced her opinion and even accepted the label of being a “bitch” that came with it. This is a powerhouse of a song and Christina’s in-your-face vocals work well with the hip-hop elements. Lil’ Kim’s rap is fly and gives the song a little bit more edge. This is an excellent track to start things off. The first ballad, Walk Away, is extremely dark and deals with an addictive relationship and the inability of leaving it. Accompanied with a haunting piano, Christina’s vocals are raw and express the desperate feeling portrayed through the music perfectly. The bridge is complete bliss as the music becomes more dramatic and the note that she hits is chilling. Christina holds back on the belting for this track and shows a more vulnerable side to her voice. Fighter is seriously one of the best pop songs ever and has always been one of my favourites since it came out. A dramatic piano, blaring and aggressive guitars and drums come together to make this the most rock influenced song on the album. Christina’s vocals are filled with anger and this is one of her most impressive vocal performances. This song oozes with power and the lyrics are simply outstanding. I adore the bridge where she sings in a higher tone because she sounds amazing and I wish she would use it more often. The notes that she belts out at the end are mind-blowing. This is definitely one of the best songs on the album.
Primer Amor Interlude is a Spanish inspired interlude with Spanish guitars and lyrics. It consists of Christina talking about her first love and she sounds very sexy speaking Spanish. It sets the mood nicely for the hot and addicting Infatuation. Like its interlude this song continues the theme of first love and also has a Spanish flavour but it’s more infectious and upbeat. Christina combines English and Spanish which results in memorable lyrics and an irresistible hook, “I am full blood Boricua/read the tattoo on his arm/he tells me, mami I need ya/and my heart beat pumps so strong”. Her vocals are great and I love when she sings “I begin to give in with no hesitation” because her voice is so light and airy. It’s nice to see her explore her Spanish roots and this is a perfect way to do so. Loves Embrace Interlude is gorgeous and serene. The music is very natural with chimes, birds chirping and the sound of water. Christina’s high vocals are simply divine and light which really suits the natural feel of this song. The feeling of love is very apparent in this piece and it’s a great introduction for Loving Me 4 Me. While Walk Away is a dark ballad this song is a lighthearted one about being accepted and loved for who you are. Everything from Christina’s vocals to the arrangement is light and shows extreme vulnerability. She performs this ballad with high angelic vocals and along with the heavenly melody it results in a stunning ballad. It’s a warm ballad with beautifully written lyrics, “your lips, your eyes, your smile, your kiss/I must admit it’s a part of me.” I remember falling in love with song the instant I heard it and it still is my favourite song on Stripped.
For Impossible, Christina worked with Alicia Keys who produced this soulful song. The jazz elements are fantastic and Christina’s vocals along with Alicia’s backing vocals sound wonderful together. The vocal harmonies are impressive and really add to the overall mood. On my first listen this track didn’t do much for me but it’s definitely grown on me over the years. Christina continues exploring her soulful side with Underappreciated which also has jazz elements. This is my least favourite song on the album but it does have some redeeming qualities. I enjoy the subject of the song, a relationship where the man stops caring for the woman who now feels underappreciated even though she’s put so much effort into their relationship. Christina’s vocals are on-point and the melody is wonderful and jazzy. For some reason this song is never more than just average but I appreciate what it brings to the album. Up next is Beautiful which is Christina’s most iconic and most popular song. It’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t heard it. This song had been sought after by many musicians like P!nk and Courtney Love but Linda Perry refused to give it to them. It wasn’t until she heard Christina sing it that she decided to give it up. It fits the theme of Stripped perfectly and it’s like it was made solely for Christina. Everyone can relate to this marvelous ballad, “cause you are beautiful/no matter what they say/words can’t bring you down,” This is such an uplifting song it’s not a surprise that it was so successful. There are no faults in this song. Christina’s vocals, the music, and the lyrics are all perfect. Make Over was a song that I was not too fond of when I first heard it but now I love it to death. It’s messy, rebellious, aggressive and has a very unique melody. Christina’s vocals sound strained especially in the chorus where she yells “I just wanna get away/saving all your bullshit for another day” but it actually works with the rebellious sound. The end is spectacular when she repeats “you wanna break me down” which then flows into amazing ad-libbing.
Cruz has Christina singing about a journey, “I’m leaving today/living it/leaving it/to change,” and was one of the songs I didn’t pay much attention to before. This song changes tempo quite often as it goes from down-tempo to mid-tempo constantly. The chorus and the bridge take on an almost aggressive tone while the verses are mellow. I love when she sings “but somehow I miss it” because it adds a melancholic feel to the song. Soar is very similar to Cruz as they’re both mid-tempos that almost sound like a ballad but never reach that point. This song has a hopeful sound and message, “don’t be scared to fly alone/find a path that is your own.” When the song enters the bridge the music strips down and Christina hits some marvelous notes. An impressive song and the backing vocals at the end add a spiritual element it. Christina gets naughty with the sensual and sexy Get Mine, Get Yours and as the title implies is a song about “physical loving.” The melody is fantastic and Christina’s seductive vocals are such a pleasure to listen to. During the bridge things get really hot when she starts speaking in a sultry voice. “I want your body/not your heart.” Damn, this is one incredible song. Dirrty (featuring Redman) is the song that caused the most controversy for Christina. This is where she broke free from her pop teen image and sported assless chaps for a provocative new look. I used to dislike this song when it first came out but now it’s definitely one of my favourite songs on Stripped. One of the major reasons I love this song is that it’s great to see someone with an amazing voice sing a song like this. It’s upbeat, energetic, and the ad-libbing is out of this world. Redman’s rap is great and aggressive, totally works with the atmosphere of the song.
Stripped Pt. 2 continues where the introduction left off. It’s as good as the first one and I love the line “sorry I’m not a virgin/sorry I’m not a slut.” Like I said before, this should have been made into a full song. The Voice Within, like all the other ballads on Stripped, is absolutely gorgeous. The piano melody is captivating and I love how Christina’s vocals sound because they’re so soft and emotional. After the first chorus the music crescendos and drums are added into the arrangement. The music crescendos again during the bridge as dramatic strings replace the piano melody. Christina’s vocals become stronger and haunting choir-like backing vocals are layered behind her voice. I’m OK is an extremely dark song about Christina’s abusive father. The song starts off with a girl crying and her father talking to her in a creepy and unsettling tone. She is completely vulnerable in this song and her vocal performance is raw and heart-wrenching. Her vocals waver but it only adds to the sadness of this song. Christina recorded this while lying on the floor and even cried during the recording which was kept in the song. This is a very personal song to Christina and is the first time she confronted her dark past in her music. “Bruises fade father, but the pain remains the same/and I still remember how you kept me so afraid.” After such a dark song it’s nice to have an optimistic song like Keep On Singin’ My Song end the album. The overall mood is hopeful, “I believe they can take anything from me/but they can’t take my inner peace,” Christina’s vocals are flawless as usually and it’s a perfect way to close off this amazing album. It’s a statement that she will continue to keep on singing through hard and good times, a very inspiring message. It’s not one of my favourite songs but it serves its purpose.
Conclusion: Stripped is a fantastic sophomore album and proves that Christina is a true artist. This is a vast improvement over her debut album, Christina Aguilera, and is regarded as her best work. Despite an inflated tracklist there’s not one song that is bad. Some are weaker than others but overall they’re all listenable and enjoyable. I was late getting into Stripped and I didn’t listen to the full album until years after it was released. Even then I didn’t come to appreciate it until I was much older. When I first listened to it I was surprised by how amazing the album turned out and my perception of Christina changed dramatically. I stopped seeing her as a pop star and started seeing her as an artist in control of her own career.
Recommended Tracks: Loving Me 4 Me, Fighter, Walk Away, The Voice Within, Dirrty (featuring Redman), Can’t Hold Us Down (featuring Lil’ Kim), Beautiful and Get Mine, Get Yours