Christina Aguilera – Back To BasicsDecember 26, 2010 at 9:43 am | Posted in Christina Aguilera | 2 Comments
Tags: Back To Basics, Christina Aguilera, Review, Xtina
- Intro (Back To Basics)
- Makes Me Wanna Pray
- Back In The Day
- Ain’t No Other Man
- Slow Down Baby
- Oh Mother
- On Our Way
- Without You
- Still Dirrty
- Here To Stay
- Thank You (Dedication To Fans…)
- Enter The Circus
- Nasty Naughty Boy
- I Got Trouble
- Mercy On Me
- Save Me From Myself
- The Right Man
Christina Aguilera did a complete 180 with her third album, Back To Basics. She traded in her assless chaps and provocative image for a classy, sophisticated and glamorous look inspired by the 20s, 30s and 40s. Not only did she completely reinvent her image she also changed her musical style to match her new image. While other pop singers were jumping into the electropop phase, she rejected it completely. She blended old school jazz and blues with modern influences to create a truly spectacular album. Christina ventured into a style that few mainstream pop artists experiment with and executed it flawlessly. Back To Basics is a two disc album with the first disc comprising of DJ Premier’s productions while the second disc comprises of tracks produced by Linda Perry.
[Disc 1]: Intro (Back To Basics) starts with a series of freezing beats and a variety of male voices who introduce Christina, “it is now time…/the one and only…/there never will be another…/Christina Aguilera.” After the announcement, snapping beats and disc scratching are added to the track as the music comes in and Christina sings about her intentions for the album, “I’ve waited for some time/to get inside the minds/of every legend I’ve ever wanted to stand beside.” This is an excellent intro and provides a great taste of what’s to come. Makes Me Wanna Pray immediately begins with choir backing vocals and static that gives it an old record feel. It’s a gospel inspired, upbeat track and it has an uplifting atmosphere with Christina singing about how love has changed her, “all of a sudden I’m so care-free (well alright)/ ‘cause love is doing something strange to me (well alright).” The gospel backing vocals are wonderful and really add to the overall atmosphere and old school feel of this track. The chorus is stunning and Christina’s backing vocals, “ooh, ohh/ohh, ohh,” and “who knew?/who knew?” sound amazing. Christina channels the gospel sound for the bridge and belts out fantastic notes. Her vocals for the final chorus are killer and she sings with the choir as the track comes to an end.
“What we’re gonna do right here is go back/way back, back into time” a man announces in Back In The Day which is followed by backing vocals listing old jazz and blues singers. Christina gives a shout out to some of the songs and singers that inspire her, “now ‘Chain Of Fools’ and ‘Respect’/was the anthem of a woman, Aretha said/ ‘What’s Going On,’ ‘Let’s Get It On’/such classic songs, don’t forget them.” The song has an “old school groove” with disc scratching and drums that create a relaxing vibe. Christina continues to list inspirational artists in the chorus, “so break out the Marvin Gaye and Etta James/your Lady Day, and Coltrane,” which is surprisingly very catchy and groovy. I was pleasantly surprised when I first heard Ain’t No Other Man because it was something that I never expected Christina to sing. I wasn’t a big fan of her at the time but when I heard this song I knew I had to start paying more attention to her. Brass instruments and belting open up this jazz influenced track. The upbeat jazz elements are infectious and I adore the backing vocals, “just do your thang honey,” because they’re fun and add to the groovy feel of the track. Christina’s vocals are soulful as she sings about Jordan Bratman, who was her husband at the time, “don’t know what you did boy but/you had it and I’ve been hooked ever since.” In the verses, there are blaring brass instruments after every line Christina sings and in the second verse there are backing vocals accompanying the blaring brass. The breakdown in the bridge has a great old school vibe and she belts “you’re the only one who’s ever passed every test” phenomenally. I love her belting right before the final chorus and how it leads into it, “and now I’m tellin’ you, so ain’t no other man but you.” I also really enjoyed how the music changes and becomes very funky at the end of the track. This was a great way to start of the Back To Basics era.
The first ballad of the album, Understand, is what Christina does best only now mixed with the beautiful sound of the blues. Her vocals on this track are sweet and the melody is incredibly contagious with its chimes and serene blues feel. The chorus is divine with Christina’s strong and emotional vocals in the foreground while in the background she sings in a high angelic voice along with another female vocalist, “I made you think, you don’t understand,” that blends together to create a blissful chorus. For the bridge, the music slightly slows down and Christina sings in soft vocals until she belts her way back into the chorus. Slow Down Baby is a perfect blend of the modern mixed with the old, creating a jazzy club banger that’s infectious, sexy and playful. The brass instruments and Christina’s vocals are aggressive and in-your-face but she still keeps a flirty tone to her voice. The added backing vocals in the pre-chorus, “you’re struttin’ ’round here like you think that I can’t do without you,” are lovely and the chorus is a barrage of strong vocals, wonderful ad-libs and delicious horns, “slow down baby/and don’t act crazy/don’t you know you can look all you want but you just can’t touch?”
Oh Mother is very similar to the subject matter that I’m OK deals with in Stripped, except this time she focuses more on her mother. While I’m OK is very raw, this song is much more refined. The piano is depressing and Christina’s performs with restrained and delicate vocals. The lyrics are tragic, “it was the moment she took on his name/he took his anger out on her face,” yet still contains traces of hope, “oh mother, we’re stronger/from all of the tears you have shed/oh mother, don’t look back/cause he’ll never hurt us again.” Christina pours her heart out in the bridge as she sings in a strong and passionate voice. This is a sad ballad and one of the most memorable songs from the album. F.U.S.S. is an interlude that stands for Fuck You Scott Storch, who was one of the producers from her previous album. The opening piano is vibrant and beautiful and I wish it was used more in the track but it fades away and leads into heavy beats and a deeper piano melody. Christina sings about her broken relationship with Scott and how she doesn’t need him anymore, “looks like I didn’t need you/still got the album out.” I love how Christina worked her previous songs into the lyrics, “we wrote Loving Me 4 Me, don’t Walk Away/Can’t Hold Us Down, all part of our history/don’t forget Infatuation, I’m a Fighter/feeling Underappreciated,” because it’s very creative.
On Our Way starts with static, a stuttering piano and vinyl scratching. The piano melody becomes clear and other instruments are added to the arrangement and she sings in a clear and crisp voice. There’s a lot of ad-libbing and backing vocals from Christina that are jaw-dropping gorgeous and they blend with her main vocals to make a melodic song. Her voice carries this sweet track and prevents it from being generic, “someday, soon, I’ll need advice/hope you’re there to shed some light/and maybe one day, you’ll be wanting mine/and we can (we can) be there for each other.” Without You is similar to the previous track but it’s more laid-back and the piano melody is much more interesting. This track features clapping beats and Christina’s vocals are soft while her backing vocals are serene and high. I love the light and peaceful feeling of the track and her high vocals are astonishing. The bridge is magical as Christina sings with both a soft, delicate voice and a strong, belting voice. The notes that she hits at the end are so angelic and out of this world. Her voice is truly one of a kind and this track shows just how incredible of a singer she is. After a few ballads Christina moves right back into upbeat territory with one of my favourite tracks, Still Dirrty. I fell in love with this track the first time I heard it. The horns capture your attention right away and Christina sings about how she’s still dirty and hasn’t changed as much as people think, “they say I’m not the girl they used to know/‘cause I don’t always wear revealing clothes/but don’t be fooled the moment I get home/I’m letting loose, giving a private show.” It’s such a playful song and the jazz elements give it a fresh and irresistible vibe that I can’t help but love. The song has a sexually empowering atmosphere, “if I want to be provocative, well that ain’t a sin/maybe you’re not comfortable in your own skin,” and the final chorus pushes that atmosphere even further with Christina’s amazing ad-libs.
Here To Stay is another up-tempo that is full of energy and 100% pure fun. The melody is addicting with orgasmic horns that will have you moving along to the beat in no time. She shakes off the haters on this track and how peoples’ opinions don’t affect her, “I pay no mind to the negative kind/‘cause it’s just no way to be.” This is one of the standouts on the first disc because of its breezy and uplifting vibe. It’s such a feel-good song, the chorus is energetic and Christina sounds like she’s having a blast singing, “I’m gonna keep on, I’m a do my own thing/we all got a song that we’re meant to sing/and no matter what people say, or might think/I ain’t going no place, no I’m here to stay.” Thank You (Dedication To Fans…) is easily the weakest song on the entire album. The remix of Genie In A Bottle is pretty cool and the disc scratching gives it an old school vibe. I don’t mind the song but it just comes across a bit too monotonous compared to the rest of the album. It’s a nice gift to her fans and the messages from her fans are sweet but it doesn’t stand out to me. Christina’s delivery is laid-back and I like how the backing vocals in the chorus comprise of fan messages, “so thank you for standing right by me (I will always love you)/so thank you for being behind me (You are just so amazing).”
[Disc 2]: The second disc begins with the dark and disturbing Enter The Circus. It’s a creepy circus themed introduction with a captivating arrangement and the ringleader and backing vocalists singing “lalalalalalala” are freaky. The ringleader makes this track perfect because his voice is so eerie and he has such a maniacal laugh, “I ask you, do you want to come and play?/hahahaha/get the world to come and play/hahahaha.” I love how this song transitions into Welcome which continues the circus theme. The orchestrated music is delightful and has such a grandiose sound that is truly remarkable. It’s a gorgeous yet dramatic arrangement and Christina sings beautifully on this track, “welcome to the greatest show/greatest show on earth/you’ve never seen before.” This is one of my favourite songs because of the epic feel of the music and the outstanding lyrics, “is it all blue skies/fun and games until you fall/then you’re left without anyone at all.” The outro returns back to the dark music from the previous song which is a perfect closing for this song. Candyman is a throw back to 40s jazz music and it’s upbeat and energetic. The song begins with male vocals, “Tarzan and Jane were swingin’ on a vine,” and Christina singing the title of the song which leads to the addicting brass instruments and her fast-paced singing. The song is a whole lot of fun and it has some very sexy lyrics, “he’s a one stop shop, makes the panties drop,” and “he’s a one stop shop, makes my cherry pop.” She effortlessly channels the 40s and performs brilliantly. Christina’s whispering in the bridge is incredibly sexy and I love when she censors the line, “he’s a one stop shop with a real big uh,” with a moan. The belt that she does at the end is insane and she holds it for such a long time. She proves once again that she is a force to be reckoned with and has one of the best voices in the business.
The sexiest song on the album is the sultry and sensual Nasty Naughty Boy. This song oozes sexuality and has a mesmerizing cabaret/burlesque sound. Christina’s vocals are seductive and she sings with hot delicate vocals, “‘cause I wanna give you a little taste/of the sugar below my waist, you nasty boy.” This is one of those songs that might make you uncomfortable if you listen to it around people because there are many erotic moments and a ton of hot moaning, “now give me a little spanking/ohh, ohh, is that all you’ve got?/come on now, don’t play with me.” While she performs mostly in sultry vocals, near the end she begins belting some fantastic notes that surprisingly don’t ruin the sensual feel of the track. When I first heard I Got Trouble at the end of the video for Ain’t No Other Man I was hoping that it would be a full song on the album and I was so happy to see that it was. It was recorded with a vintage microphone to give it an old vinyl effect. The vintage effect, blues feel and her soulful voice make this one of most unique songs on the album, “I’ve got trouble, trouble, trouble/always knocking at my door/yes I’m a whole lot of trouble, baby/just like a kid in a candy store.” The light brass arrangement is very nice and Christina is vocally restrained for the most part but at the end she starts to sing with a bit more power.
Hurt is the major ballad from the album and rightfully so because everything about it is stunning and gorgeous. The piano is heart-wrenching and Christina vocals are filled with despair. She sings the first half of the verses with soft vocals, “seems like it was yesterday when I saw your face/you told me how proud you were, but I walked away,” while in the second half her vocals are intense and powerful, “sometimes I wanna call you/but I know you won’t be there.” She continues the intense singing for the chorus and the added strings create a tragic atmosphere. All the instruments become dramatic in the bridge and Christina’s vocals are so touching and full of emotion. For the final chorus she sings in a fragile voice and she sounds as if she’s about to cry, “I’m sorry for blaming you/for everything I just couldn’t do/and I’ve hurt myself by hurting you.” The gospel elements return once again for the next track, Mercy On Me. While Makes Me Wanna Pray is an uplifting, feel-good gospel inspired song this one is dark and deals with sin and forgiveness. The choir, at the beginning, sings an altered version of the chorus and they sound morbid. The song is written as a confession and she makes reference to religious figures as she asks for forgiveness, “Jesus, I must confess,” and “Mother Mary full of grace.” Her performance here is soulful and in the chorus she sounds regretful, “oh lord have mercy on my soul/for I have walked a sinful road.” At the end there’s some strong belting and the small a cappella moment is awesome.
Save Me From Myself is Christina at her most vulnerable. It’s a simple song with just an acoustic guitar and her raw vocals. I love when Christina restrains her vocals and sings like this because it shows another side to her. She doesn’t need to rely on over singing to make an amazing song. Christina’s vocals are the center of attention as she sings about how it’s not easy loving her. It’s a sweet song and the lyrics are lovely and meaningful, “and when I’m about to fall/somehow you’re always waiting with/your open arms to catch me.” The Right Man is a song about Jordan Bratman that is both melancholic, “but no father stands beside me/to give his bride away,” and joyful, “I have waited for this moment/with tears of happiness.” The song features dramatic strings and for the chorus the backing vocals are chilling and beautiful at the same time. It’s bittersweet as it deals with two of the most important men in her life, her father who isn’t there, “‘cause there is no hand to hold/here’s no shoulder here to lean on,” and Jordan “now my love, you stand beside me/to walk life’s winding road.” I love how they worked wedding music into the song but gave it a touch of sadness. This is a strong track and works as a great closing for the album.
Conclusion: Christina’s venture into jazz and blues resulted in an awe inducing body of work. Her reinvention showed the world once again that she isn’t like other cookie cutter pop singers. Christina doesn’t play it safe and took a huge risk in mixing jazz and blues with modern influences but she pulled it off. This album, like Stripped, wasn’t something easy for me to digest and it wasn’t until a few years after listening to it that I truly appreciated it. This album shows how much she has matured since Stripped, changing from a girl who was struggling with darkness to a confident and inspirational woman.
Recommended Tracks: Ain’t No Other Man, Still Dirrty, Here To Stay, Hurt, Welcome, Save Me From Myself, Candyman, I Got Trouble, Nasty Naughty Boy, Slow Down Baby, Back In The Day and Oh Mother