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: 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