True to its title, Stripped,
the audacious new RCA Records release from Christina Aguilera,
strips away the last remnants of her previous teen idol persona
and whatís left is as real as it gets.
The sixteen new tracks that
comprise Stripped, including her sensational debut single,
"Dirrty," showcases an unadorned, unfettered and
fearlessly outspoken artist who has liberated herself, her soul
and her music on an album that is as much a declaration of
independence as it is a convincing demonstration of her fierce
and original talent. Simply put, this is the real deal.
"When youíre seventeen
years old, green and inexperienced, youíre grateful for any
guidance and direction you can get." Says Christina on her
rocket sled ride to the top following the 1999 release of her
eponymously-titled debut album, with its string of consecutive
chart toppers, including "Genie In A Bottle" and
"What A Girl Wants." It was a feat she would repeat
the following year with Mi Reflejo, the smash Spanish language
version of her debut, followed by her hit holiday release, My
Kind Of Christmas.
Ten million plus albums, a
Grammy win for Best New Artist and a marathon round of world
touring later, Christina began to fearlessly break free from the
mass media mask that hid her true self, and the full scope of
"I felt trapped,"
she admits. "I was under the thumb of people who were
mostly interested in keeping me doing exactly the same thing.
But Iím not blaming anyone," sheís quick to add.
"You learn fast in this business and, once I knew where I
wanted to go, I didnít let anyone get in my way."
Where she wanted to go, at
least initially, was to her Los Angeles home where she could
catch her breath, reconnecting with herself and her two canine
companions. "I needed a break," she reveals. "I
wanted to disappear into empty space for awhile. So much had
happened in such a short time, and not only in my career. Iíd
gone through a breakup with my first real love and I began
realizing that I should be experiencing a bit more of life than
TV and recording studios, hotels and green rooms."
As well intended as her
much-deserved hiatus may have been, the vocalist and songwriter
still had to contend with the restless creative energy that had
fueled her preteen trajectory from talent show contestant in and
around her native Pittsburgh to international superstardom.
"Iím driven," is
Christinaís frank admission. "Even in the midst of
touring, I was thinking about what my next album would be,
writing bits and pieces of songs in journals and
That album, like Christinaís
long overdue R&R, would have to wait. Unable to resist the
lure of a promising creative collaboration, she joined forces
with Pink, Mya and Lilí Kim on the smash "Lady
Marmalade" single and video. That eye-popping slice of ear
candy kept her front and center in the international spotlight
even as she began, slowly and steadily, to lay the groundwork
for a musical manifesto that would change all the rules.
"I was straight ahead
about what I wanted to do," Christina continues. "For
a long time, Iíd been uncomfortable with the image that had
been built around me and my music. It felt like I was
pretending, trying to hide the real me, and hurting inside
because of it. This time I was determined to step beyond the
hype and glitter, to take it back down to the bare necessities.
It was like starting all over again."
Yet at the same time,
Christinaís bold work-in-progress wasnít simply a reaction
to the past. "I wanted to explore some of the music that
had inspired me coming up," she explains. "Iíve
always been a huge fan of soul. I love real rock & roll and
hip-hop, of course, is one of my biggest influences. I wanted it
And what she wanted she set
about to achieve with a relentless determination and a
willingness to stretch her creative boundaries. "Iíve
always thought recording was about attaining perfection,"
she reveals. "What I discovered making this album is that
getting across real feelings is whatís important. As much as
possible, I wanted to have the listener right there in the
studio with me. I wanted to introduce myself, to get down to it.
What mattered was sharing what I was really going throughÖfor
the first time."
And the first and most
formidable challenge for Christina was to assemble a supporting
cast that, in her words, "werenít influenced by my old
image." A ruthless process of elimination yielded a
production and songwriting team that included, among others,
Pink producer Linda Perry; the team of Redman and Rockwilder;
Alanis Morrissette producer Glenn Ballard; fast rising studio
wizard Scott Storch, as well artist/producer Alicia Keys.
Recorded over an
eighteen-month stretch, with Christina firmly at the helm every
step of the way, Stripped slowly but surely took shape, not only
as an exercise in breathtaking stylistic diversity but as a
resonant and revealing look into the mind and emotions of a
young woman on the verge of personal and professional
The result is resonant and
revealing original tracks that decisively shred Christinaís
squeaky clean persona, even as they set the stage for a career
that, millions of albums and concert tickets later, is only now
just getting started.
The proof is all over
Stripped, from the opening notes of "Impossible," the
smoky ballad by Alicia Keys, to the romantic revelations of
"Canít Hold Us Down," featuring the persuasive
production of Scott Storch; from the soaring affirmations of
"Beautiful," to blistering licks of "Make
Over," to the superheated funk of "Dirrty,"
featuring Redman and Rockwilder. "I loved ĎLetís Get
Dirty,í" Christina reveals, "So I asked Rockwilder
to put something together kind of like that for me." She
laughs. "What I got was a little too close, but then I
figured, ĎWhy not?í The track is like an answer song to the
original, only from a female point of view."
As much excitement and
surprise as a first listening to Stripped might generate, there
are other textures, urgent, honest and unguarded, that emerge
with time. "Everything I sing about in ĎIím OKí is
real," she asserts. "I took it right out of my life
and Iím singing it right to my Dad." While another
Stripped standout, "Canít Hold Me Down," may at
first sound like payback to a certain superstar rapper, for
Christina thatís hardly the point. "I havenít got time
for all that," is her retort. "Iím more interested
in helping girls stand up for themselves. Thatís what the song
is about Ė double standards and how weíre supposed to look
and act a certain way just to please men. If I have any
influence as an entertainer, I want it to be optimistic and
uplifting, to make this world a little better place to
Aguilera, it all
begins by getting real. "This music is who I am," she
confidently asserts. "You can take it or leave it, but
Iím not going to change, not for anyone." In the end, she
says, itís a tribute to the millions of worldwide fans who
have made her a household name. "Fans grow up, too,"
she smiles. "Weíre all reaching out for something more
real and if we really want it, weíre going to find it. This
album is for anyone who really wants it."