Christina Aguilera Back to Basics
March 18, 2010
Having ridden the Mickey Mouse train all the way from family values to panty baring vamp and back again, Christina Aguilera has stepped on board the express train, leaving her contempories back on the platform as she speeds towards legendary status. Is Back to Basics the album that will inaugurate Christina into the pantheon of soul divas a la Aretha Franklin and Etta James?
Is it fuck! Although, with each passing album Aguilera comes closer to meeting the potential she has continually shown in her performance, she has the monumental task of getting over her own self-infatuation before she can expect to be mentioned in the same breath as the artists she name checks on this album. The big girl with the little voice may have a range beyond her years, but she has a lot of self-examination and letting go to do before she can stake her claim as THE vocalist of the 21st century.
The album contains too much filler to be killer. It does however let Christina rip of her teeny pop restraints and slip into something a little more comfortable. Manipulating her vocals almost as much as producer DJ Premier manipulates the samples, when at its best Back to Basics highlights Christina’s ability to become this generations Millie Jackson.
This album is at its paramount when Christina sticks her finger up to, rather than pointing it at, her detractors, her sass and razor sharp wit more than match her celebrated vocals, which can be inappropriately show offish at times. On Stripped Aguilera showed she was in touch with her sexual nature. Here, on tracks like “Aint No Other Man”, “Still Dirty” and “Slow Down, Baby ” she shows she is in control of it, and of herself.
On the Linda Perry produced CD2, Aguilera shows her immense skill as an artist by serving up an album that not only sounds like it could have been shot from the cannon of Sally Bowles but, like all good cabaret, remains relevant and provocative to a modern day audience. Note the jitterbug raunch of “Candyman”, to the saucy soul of “I Got Trouble” and “Nasty, Naughty Boy”.
But then she gets the knifes out, and- when it comes to associating blame, Christina treads a well worn track that, rather than dissing her adversaries, bogs down her album and unwittingly highlights the fragile ego and insecurities that come with being a child star from a broken home (“Oh Mother” & “F.U.S.S”). Her desperate need for validation is epitomized by the horrible closing track on CD1 “Thank You” which places Christina centre stage in a fan club circle jerk.
Back To Basics is by no means the classic Christina imagines it to be. But credit where credit is due. She could easily have done a Robbie Williams and released an album of sub standard covers. Since she’s not a Jim Henson aberration, however, she’s put her own mark on the genre.
She may be stepping into the shoes of those who walked before her. But right now she’s breaking them in.