released June 8th, 2010
from the album - Not Myself Tonight
from all music
A leader in the parade of Mickey Mouse Club veterans who stormed pop at the turn of the millennium, Christina Aguilera was the sexy, brassy diva of the bunch — the Rolling Stones to Britney Spears’ Beatles, as it were. Initially, it was difficult to see Christina outside of the prism of Britney, whose 1999 success launched the new millennium's teen pop boom, but Christina’s big hits of 1999 — “Genie in a Bottle,” “What a Girl Wants,” “Come on Over” — more than held their own with “Baby One More Time,” while revealing a vocalist with considerably more power and range than her erstwhile rival. Soon, Aguilera distanced herself from the rest of the teen pop pack beginning with her carnal sophomore set, Stripped, a heavy R&B album from 2002 that found its greatest success with the ballad “Beautiful.” Christina may have overemphasized her sexual side with singles like “Dirrtty,” but by the time of 2006’s Back to Basics, it was clear that Aguilera was the most musically ambitious, and reliable, pop diva of the boom.
Born on Staten Island on December 18, 1980, Aguilera spent her early childhood in Pittsburgh, PA. By age six, she began performing regularly in local talent shows, working her way to an appearance on the nationally televised competition Star Search. This was the true beginning of Aguilera’s professional career, leading her to joining Disney Channel’s reboot of The Mickey Mouse Club in 1992. Christina joined a cast that also featured future stars Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling, Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, and Keri Russell. The New Mickey Mouse Club lasted for two years and after its cancellation, Aguilera began working behind the scenes of the pop machine, cutting a duet with Japanese pop singer Keizo Nakanishi called “All I Wanna Do,” then representing the U.S. three years later in the Golden Stag International Festival. Her first big break arrived in 1998, when she recorded “Reflection” for the soundtrack of Disney’s Mulan, a performance that lead to a contract with RCA Records.
RCA released Christina Aguilera late in the summer of 1999, several months after Britney’s “Baby One More Time” began the teen pop boom. Christina’s debut reached the top of the U.S. charts on the momentum of the number one single “Genie in a Bottle,” which was followed in short order by another chart-topper in “What a Girl Wants,” which happened to be the first number one of 2000. Aguilera racked up recognition in a number of ways, playing the Superbowl halftime show and winning the Grammy for Best New Artist, as “Come on Over Baby (All I Want Is You)” gave her a third number one single. Aguilera kept new product flowing, too, releasing the Spanish-language Mi Reflejo — she didn’t speak the language, so she learned lyrics phonetically — and My Kind of Christmas by the end of the year, while other labels attempted to cash in on her success via an unauthorized collection of old demos called Just Be Free. Christina Aguilera drifted down the charts in 2001 but she stayed in the spotlight via her participation of a remake of Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade” for the soundtrack of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge.
When Aguilera resurfaced with new material in 2002, she began using the appellation Xtina, which was not the only “X” on her sophomore effort, Stripped. A carnal collection of risqué R&B largely produced by Scott Storch, Stripped was a defiant break from her teenybopper past, and Aguilera promoted it by flashing lots of skin on the covers of her album, Rolling Stone, and Maxim. Such striking sexuality earned mixed reviews and the lead single “Dirrty” failed to replicate her early success, but she straightened the ship with “Beautiful,” a ballad that turned into an anthem of sorts and peaked at number two on the Top 100.
Aguilera took another left turn for her next album, 2006’s Back to Basics. The title suggested something simple but the album was anything but, spilling out over two discs and running the gamut from brassy swing to modern dance. Its lead single, “Ain’t No Other Man,” was another blockbuster and Grammy winner for Christina, and the tour was her most ambitious to date. In 2008, Aguilera released her first hits collection, Keeps Gettin' Better, which was available exclusively via Target in the U.S. After a four-year break, Aguilera returned with her fourth album, Bionic, in the spring of 2010.
Subtlety not being part of Christina Aguilera’s vocabulary, she trades the retro-swing of Back to Basics for the future-pop of Bionic, receiving assists from a roster that reads like a who’s-who of progressive pop in 2010: M.I.A., Le Tigre, Peaches, and John Hill & Switch, known for their work with Santigold. But like the half-cyborg/half-diva illustration of the album cover, this revamp is only partial. Aguilera hedges her bets by adding a ballad from old friend Linda Perry, gets Tricky Stewart to produce a trio of cuts, drafts Polow da Don and Focus… to produce some heavy and slow R&B, respectively, letting enough air into the machines to reassure hesitant fans that she hasn’t abandoned her roots. All this hesitancy means that for as many risks as it takes, Bionic doesn’t feel daring. Apart from the stuttering opener of the title track and glassy chill of “Elastic Love,” notably the two Hill & Switch productions, this never delivers the future shock it promises, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the robot-diva hybrids are often interesting even when they stumble, as they do on “WooHoo,” its incessant title loop piercing like a dental drill. Exhibit A in Xtina’s curious tin ear for sex, “WooHoo” doesn’t work as temptation, not when the chorus come-on is “licky licky yum yum,” but her crassness is no longer alienating as it was on Stripped; it’s simply part of her persona, just like her shameless narcissism, showcased on the closing “Vanity,” where she gets her kid to confirm that she’s the greatest of them all. This triumphant self-possession comes so naturally to Christina that it’s hard not to wish that she acted so boldly throughout Bionic, letting the entirety of the record be as distinctly odd as its best moments. Frankly, the deluxe edition of Bionic does suggest what the album could have been: it’s supplemented by four bonus songs that are wildly imaginative, whether it’s the clattering, chanting “Bobblehead,” the cool synth glide of “Birds of Prey,” the perfect new wave pop of “Monday Morning,” or Sia’s mournful ballad “Stronger Than Ever.” In their place on the album proper are competent, relatively colorless club odes to fashion and fabulousness and Perry’s boring inspirational “Lift Me Up,” songs that play to Aguilera’s persona without inhabiting it. The rest of Bionic — not just the hipster flirtations and Sia’s trio of richly ruminative AAA ballads, but the tracks directly within Aguilera’s wheelhouse, like Tricky Stewart’s wildly successful, slinky “Desnudate,” and the sultry slow burner “Sex for Breakfast” — find Christina not playing to expectations but simply acting as a natural diva and is all the more compelling for it.
1 Bionic Aguilera, Harper, Hill, Taylor 3:21
2 Not Myself Tonight Curtis, Dean, Jones, Perry 3:06
3 Woohoo Aguilera, Dean, Jones, Kelly ... 5:28
4 Elastic Love Aguilera, Arulpragasam, Hill ... 3:33
5 Desnudate Aguilera, Kelly, Stewart 4:25
6 Love & Glamour (Intro) :11
7 Glam Aguilera, Kelly, Stewart 3:39
8 Prima Donna Aguilera, Kelly, Stewart 3:25
9 Morning Dessert (Intro) Edwards 1:32
10 Sex for Breakfast Aguilera, Detail 4:49
11 Lift Me Up Perry 4:07
12 My Heart (Intro) :18
13 All I Need Aguilera, Dixon, Furler 3:33
14 I Am Aguilera, Dixon, Furler 3:52
15 You Lost Me Aguilera, Dixon, Furler 4:17
16 I Hate Boys Aguilera, Dean, Hunter, Jones ... 2:24
17 My Girls Aguilera, Fateman, Hanna ... 3:07
18 Vanity Aguilera, Dean, Kelly 4:21