Tags: Christina Aguilera, Keeps Gettin’ Better: A Decade Of Hits, Lil Kim, Mya, Pink, Redman, Review, Ricky Martin, Xtina
- Genie In A Bottle
- What A Girl Wants
- I Turn To You
- Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)
- Nobody Wants To Be Lonely (with Ricky Martin)
- Lady Marmalade (with Lil’ Kim, Mýa and P!nk)
- Dirrty (feat. Redman)
- Ain’t No Other Man
- Genie 2.0
- Keeps Gettin’ Better
- You Are What You Are (Beautiful)
Keeps Gettin’ Better: A Decade Of Hits is Christina’s first greatest hits compilation and it contains all of the major songs she has released in her first 10 years in the music business. Not only does the record contain old material but it was a platform to showcase the new direction she was heading for her fourth studio album. The record provides a great look into her past and contains two great collaborations that were never included on her albums. In addition, she has reinvented two of her classic hits and thrown in two completely new songs. Christina’s first decade of music contains a marvelous array of songs that range from delicious dance tracks to heavenly ballads. She’s gone from the bubblegum pop of her debut to the fearless and bold Stripped to the elegant and classy Back To Basics. She constantly evolves with each era and continues to innovate. While many popstars stick to the same formula, Christina does not play it safe. She goes outside of the trends, takes risks, experiments with so many different genres and demonstrates new sides of her voice. She’s one of my favourite singers and this compilation shows exactly why.
Nobody Wants To Be Lonely (with Ricky Martin) is a Latin inspired mid-tempo that starts with some lovely ad-libbing from the duo. The Latin melody is sublime and has a very infectious groove. Ricky gets the first verse and his vocals are smooth and sultry, rising with passion as it nears the hook, “there you are, in a darkened room/and you’re all alone, looking out the window.” Christina’s verse has a lot more passion as she puts more strength into her voice, “can you hear my voice/do you hear my song/it’s a serenade, so your heart can find me, ohh.” In the chorus, they give an emotional performance and their voices melt together beautifully. “Nobody wants to be lonely/nobody wants to cry/my body’s longing to hold you/so bad it hurts inside,” they sing to the melodic arrangement with glorious ad-libs and belts that make it even more wonderful. A tempo change occurs in the bridge, slowing down for the two to let their vocals shine. The final chorus is marvelous because Christina throws out some impressive belts and hits a glorious high note. Lady Marmalade (with Lil’ Kim, Mýa and P!nk) is one of the most amazing and biggest collaborations ever because it brings women from different musical styles together for a spectacular cover. “Where’s all mah soul sistas/lemme hear ya’ll flow sistas,” Lil’ Kim raps to a snapping beat for the introduction as Mýa comes in for the first verse. Although her part is my least favourite, she still gives a great performance but she’s overshadowed by the other stars. P!nk takes over the second verse with her strong vocals while Lil’ Kim spits out a slick rap in the middle of the track. Despite how great everyone sounds, Christina steals the spotlight completely and her performance is the most memorable. The entire song builds up for her moment and when she comes in, she makes a grand entrance. Belting her way into the song, she gives a marvelous performance, “touch of her skin feeling silky smooth/color of cafe au lait alright/made the savage beast inside roar until he cried.” I really like how the choruses gradually progress to include all four singers. It starts off with just one but with each passing chorus, as each starlet gets her turn, they become incorporated into the chorus. The final chorus has all of them belting, ad-libbing and giving their all. It’s sexy, erotic and irresistibly infectious. Missy Elliot gives a shout-out to each singer at the end and they all get their own vocalizing moment before they all scream out “creole lady marmalade.”
The most exciting thing about this compilation are the electronic songs that are included at the end and the first of the four is Genie 2.0. I was dying for a studio version when she performed it at the MTV Video Music Awards. This rework of her classic hit starts with a combination of amazing synths. The intro builds up with a psychedelic riff and a bunch of computerized beeps and glitches in the background. When it explodes, an intoxicating drum and synth beat takes over. In addition to the new arrangement, she offers new vocals which result in the song having a much sexier feel. While the original has an innocent but flirty and provocative sound, the remake is darker, more erotic and mysterious. The instrumentation just oozes sex and her vocals are silky and seductive. I love how the instrumental continuously changes to include a bunch of different electronic beats. The second half of the verses contain a much grittier synth beat. The hook increases the tempo slightly but it still keeps its addicting slow groove. The highlight is the breakdown during the bridge where she sexily whispers “come on, come on, come on and let me out.” She also repeats this during the outro and it’s even more infectious due to the hectic synths that join her. This remake is flawless and I enjoy it much more than the original. Keeps Gettin’ Better is the track that was used to promote the compilation and it’s a playful up-tempo. Similarly, it begins with a bunch of overlapping synth riffs that lead into her vixen-like vocals, “so baby yes I know what I am/and no I don’t give a damn/and you’ll be loving it.” The hard synths give it an edgy feel and the second the chorus hits, the synths, as well as her vocals, get a boost and become electrified with energy. “Some days I’m a super bitch/up to my old tricks/but it won’t last forever/next day I’m your super girl/out to save the world/and it keeps getting better,” she sings ecstatically to a riveting and dance-y electronic melody where she takes on a superheroine persona. She teases in the bridge to a snapping beat with a bit of vocoder which is a very rare thing for Christina. The climatic final chorus is a blast of synths, intense vocals and ad-libs. Finishing the song off is my favourite vocal moment where she sings “hold on” and I just can’t get over how addicting her voice sounds.
Dynamite is my favourite of the new songs and with its drum and synth beat, it’s a slice of futuristic heaven. Featuring an array of screeching, buzzing and static-like synths, the song is bursting with electronic goodness. The use of vocoder gives her voice a really nice effect that goes well with the melody. I love the chorus because of how vibrant and upbeat it sounds, “dynamite, electrify me all night/dynamite, just give it to me, I won’t fight.” She’s sassy, playful and the hook is just a whole lot of fun. She plays around with her voice a lot on this track and it’s amazing to see vocals like this on an electropop song. The bridge foreshadows her next project and its one of my favourite middle eights ever, “I’m feelin’ all around me that a change is ’bout to happen/the energy igniting has become my inspiration/if you take a deeper look you’ll find the information/I’m only just a figment of controlled imagination.” The vocoder on her voice is perfect and everything about it just screams futuristic pop. It’s a really cool moment. Her background vocals in the final chorus are simply stunning and the outro is beyond amazing. Her vocalizing is so catchy and fun, especially when it’s combined with her singing “dancin’ til’ the morning on a velvet sky” because she ad-libs in a higher register. She finishes with some impressive vocal harmonies that are out of this world. This is sexy and fun, all rolled into one crazy banger. The final track is another remake and this time it’s her biggest hit that gets a makeover. You Are What You Are (Beautiful) is a Goldfrapp-esque electronic ballad and it ends up being one of the most unique remakes ever. The original was an emotional anthem that resonated with many and the new version keeps all of that beauty but presents it in a truly amazing way. Gone is the human touch and in its place is a robotic and artificial one that is very dark. The remake is much more depressing and despite being electronic, it’s stripped compared to the other new songs. Her lifeless vocals are led through a buzzing synth line with the occasional kaleidoscope of electronic beats sneaking their way in. The song never strays away from its mellow tempo and the chorus keeps the droning feel of the verses. With just a simple synth beat, the bridge contains her most vocoded vocals yet. As it goes on, the humanistic qualities of her voice start to flourish and in the background, her muffled belting can be heard. It all comes together in a touching way and it’s a lovely conclusion to the record.
Conclusion: Keeps Gettin’ Better: A Decade Of Hits is a phenomenal collection. It goes through her discography chronologically and having the songs side by side really shows how she reinvents herself with every album. The new tracks were the main reason I decided to check out this album and they do not disappoint. They were such a surprise the first time I heard them because I had no idea that she was heading into an electronic direction and it was such a different style for her. They definitely made me excited for her next project and I started to become a much bigger fan. Her take on electropop is a breath of fresh air. Everything sounds so futuristic and eccentric compared to what other popstars were doing at the time. The songs have their own unique charm and I couldn’t wait to see how far she would take that sound in her fourth album. There aren’t many pop artists out there that take such enormous leaps with their music and it makes Christina stand out amongst her peers. She always brings something new to the table and that’s what I love about her. New and old fans will find a lot to love about this compilation.
Recommended Tracks: Dynamite, Genie 2.0, You Are What You Are (Beautiful) and Keeps Gettin’ Better
Note: The reviews for the rest of the songs from this compilation can be found in my reviews for Christina Aguilera – Christina Aguilera, Christina Aguilera – Stripped and Christina Aguilera – Back To Basics
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
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
Tags: Christina Aguilera, Review, Xtina
- Genie In A Bottle
- What A Girl Wants
- I Turn To You
- So Emotional
- Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)
- Love For All Seasons
- Somebody’s Somebody
- When You Put Your Hands On Me
- Love Will Find A Way
In the 90s, I wasn’t really into music all that much. I only listened to singles and the songs that were popular at the moment. When I did listen to an album it was only for the songs that I liked. So, I actually didn’t hear Christina’s self-titled debut album until six or seven years after its release. Christina has always been one of the standout pop singers in my opinion and I remember when I was younger I enjoyed pretty much every single she released.
The album opens up with one of Christina’s most popular songs, Genie In A Bottle. This song oozes nostalgia especially the piano melody at the beginning. This is a fantastic dance track and it sounds much better than I remember. Her vocals in the verses are fresh and she claims she’s “been locked up tight/for a century of lonely nights.” The most memorable part of the song is the pre-chorus, where the synths come in with Christina ad-libbing and seductively whispering “oh, my body’s sayin’ let’s go/ oh, but my heart is sayin’ no.” The “ohs” go perfectly with the melody and they are so good. Another thing that I like about the song is the sexual references, “but that don’t mean I’m gonna give it away” and “but that don’t mean it’s gotta be tonight,” because they’re clever and innocent. The chorus is super catchy with Christina singing “I’m a genie in a bottle/you gotta rub me the right way.” It’s a great hook and she sounds amazing especially in the final chorus with her ad-libs and backing vocals. What A Girl Wants is a cute and bubbly mid-tempo. Christina sounds sweet and feminine against the light percussion and guitar, “I wanna thank you for giving me time to breathe/like a rock, you waited so patiently.” The chorus is a bit repetitive but the hook, “what a girl wants/what a girl needs,” is catchy and the “what I want is whatcha got/and whatcha got is what I want” parts after the chorus add some sexuality to the song. The bridge involves some cheer-like vocals, the note Christina hits is amazing and I love how the music changes to a more dramatic sound before going back into the chorus.
The album moves onto another popular song, I Turn To You, which is the album’s first ballad. I never really cared for this song when I was younger because I wasn’t all that into ballads but now I find it to be a wonderful track. It starts off with the sound of rain and traffic which leads to a soft guitar that accompanies Christina. I like how the first line of the song reflects back on the sound of rain that is used in the intro, “when I’m lost in the rain.” Christina definitely had the best voice out of all the pop starlets from the 90s and this song proves that. Her vocals are expressive, full of emotion and she sings with a lot of soul. The melody sounds sad but the song is very loving and inspirational. The chorus is beyond gorgeous, “for a shield from the storm/for a friend, for a love/to keep me safe and warm/I turn to you,” and she sounds so elegant. The final chorus is beautiful as Christina belts, accompanied by backing vocalists. I can’t believe I didn’t really think much of this song before. Christina announces “you make me feel so emotional” at the start of So Emotional before the music kicks in. It’s a laid-back mid-tempo and it’s pretty infectious. She sounds carefree and the song flows nicely especially in the verses. For the first chorus, her vocals are light and airy but for the others she adds stronger vocals to accompany the light vocals. It’s nice and one of the better album only tracks.
The next track is another one of Christina’s biggest hits, Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You). This song is so much fun and totally irresistible. Snapping beats open this song along with Christina’s bright vocals. The snapping is quickly replaced by drums and Christina starts being a tease, “I’ve got an invitation/don’t you keep me waiting all night long.” I love her vocals, they’re enthusiastic, full of energy and the melody of the track is fantastic. This is the catchiest chorus on the album because of the energy she puts into it, “all I want is you, come over here baby/all I want is you, you know/you make me go crazy.” The bridge is beyond amazing with all the sexy whispering, ad-libs and groovy beats. Reflection was one of my favourite songs when I was younger mostly because of its feature in Disney’s Mulan. At the time I didn’t know Christina sang this song so it was quite a shock when I found out. Traditional instruments and Christina’s soothing vocals make this one of the standout tracks. The guitar melody is breathtaking and the lyrics are beautiful, “now I see/if I wear a mask/I can fool the world/but I cannot fool my heart.” The chorus is soaring and she pours her heart into it, “who is that girl I see/staring straight back at me?/when will my reflection show/who I am inside?” This is such an amazing song and it’s my favourite one from the album. Love For All Seasons has a pretty nice melody with it’s light guitar and synths. The backing vocals in the verse during the “I don’t know what to do/I feel like a fool” sound great with Christina’s vocals. This song is lacking compared to the previous tracks but I do like the chorus mostly because of the references to the seasons, “I’ll be the fire in your winter/the sun in your spring.” Other than that I’m not feeling this song.
Somebody’s Somebody is a simple song that ends up being a bit too dull. Christina’s vocals are great and the backing vocals in the verses make it a bit more interesting but this just doesn’t have the bang that the beginning of the album had. The chorus is better than the verses but it comes across as a bit too repetitive, “somebody’s somebody/someone’s someone/some sweet lover’s lover/I wanna be that one.” It does get better at the end when the instruments become stronger and Christina starts ad-libbing. Things get interesting with When You Put Your Hands On Me because of its fun and sexy atmosphere. This song isn’t amazing by any means but it’s better than the last two filler tracks. The title of the song is seductively whispered by Christina and while the verses are kind of lackluster the song really shines during the chorus. It’s upbeat but retains a laid-back feel and is quite sexual, “I just know/when you put your hands on me/I feel sexy/and my body turns to gold.” Another thing I like about the song is the distorted vocals when she sings “and I lose my self-control.” Blessed, the third ballad, is nice and soothing. I really like the guitar melody and Christina’s soft vocals. The verses are decent but the chorus is more enjoyable with her high-toned vocals, “blessed for everything you’ve given me/blessed for all the tenderness you show.” It’s really sweet and I love the added emphasis when she sings “blessed.” It could have been better but this is a nice ballad.
Things start to look up again with Love Will Find Away. This track is so much better than the last few tracks. It’s fun and extremely infectious. Christina’s vocals are very lively and bright, “no one ever said that/love was gonna be easy.” The chorus is fantastic with her fast-paced singing that goes so well with the groovy arrangement “no the rain won’t last forever/find a way to make it better/long as we can stand together/love will find a way.” I love the bridge because of its summery feel and Christina’s girly vocals, “I want you/I need you/you know that I believe you.” This is a feel-good song with a great uplifting atmosphere. The final track, Obvious, is another ballad but this time Christina sings with vulnerability. With a piano, drums and chimes the arrangement is simple, adding to the vulnerability of the song. I like how the title is not only used in the chorus but also in the verses as well. The chorus is sung strongly compared to the verses which are sung in delicate vocals, “that I don’t know what I’m doing anymore/I’m feeling like a little girl.” The bridge stands out to me the most because of Christina’s passionate vocals which are also used for the final chorus of the song.
Conclusion: Christina Aguilera is a great debut album but it’s far from being the best work that she’s done. The first half of the album is amazing. It contains all her classic songs and they’re all fresh and full of energy. In contrast, the second half of the album is overrun with fillers that lack the quality of the first half. They’re not memorable and don’t really do anything to capture your attention. While this album isn’t as spectacular as her later releases it’s still a nice album that shows Christina’s roots.
Recommended Tracks: Reflection, Genie In A Bottle, Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You), What A Girl Wants and I Turn To You