Christina Aguilera
Stripped


2.5
average

Review

by Amanda Murray STAFF
July 3rd, 2006 | 33 replies | 12,442 views


Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist


Nothing is more consistent in the musical world than the endemic prevalence of hypocrisy at every turn. Musicians who decry unsatisfactory living conditions in developing countries while lodging in diamond-encrusted ocean-front manors with landing strips made of platinum and emerald-floored tennis courts. Singers who defend animal rights to their dying breath, drenching fur-wearers with fetid blood but take enough care to avoiding splashing any on their own leather shoes. In real life these kinds of double standards are more frustrating than humorous. But when it comes to our musical celebrities, it is nothing if not downright hilarious. Take Christina Aguilera, the reigning Queen of hypocrisy in action.

When promoting her sophomore album Stripped in 2002, Aguilera's style and attitude diverged significantly from her goody-two-shoes, girl-next-door pop roots. Caked in layers of makeup, assless chaps and a hairstyle that changed with each hour, she gravely affirmed that this was the 'real her' and you had better 'respect it, bitch' (uh, paraphrasing). She proudly described the placement of her new tattoos and piercings, and adopted a tough chick attitude to correspond. Aguilera confessed a weakness for casual sex, claimed to love 'experimenting with [her] sexuality', and tried to push the boundaries of decency and respectability in every interview. She appeared topless on the album cover, breathless in her lead music video and tasteless in every manner. Nothing wrong with any of that, of course. It was the hyper-feminist bent she coincidentally adopted which compromised her entire persona. She criticised the double standard between male 'players' and female 'sluts', condemned the objectification of women and reviled people who focused more on her image than her music. Again, nothing wrong with any of that. I'd tend to agree with most of her opinions. But it's difficult to take someone's plaintive demands for an end to female objectification seriously when she consciously contributes to the problem herself; if you don't want people to treat you as a sex object, don't release your most sexually-charged song (and least musically proficient) as a lead single. Don't accompany it with a video that gets banned in several countries, requires adult-content warnings before being played on any station, and features you writhing in all manners of sexual bliss. It kind of moots the point, wouldn't you think? Unless the point is to sell records and garner unprecedented attention, with Aguilera did in spades. And her insincerity wouldn't even be quite so laughable if this 'real deal' wasn't just as much of a sham as her initial image. But of course, in time for her next album release Aguilera was a whole other creature altogether, sophisticated, proper and refined. Funny what a new promotional tour can bring about.

In the flurry of debating the authenticity of Aguilera's newfound personality, at least she was right about one thing. Her music was being overshadowed by her image. It's almost to her benefit in a certain sense; if people actually took the time to listen to the music rather than being outraged by their assumptions, they'd have some valid complaints to make. Yes, 'Dirrty' had a ridiculously over-the-top video; too right, girls locker room showers don't always end it communal orgy; and yeah, that's not a skirt but rather a headband. But the music? Aguilera on autopilot. Great choice for a lead single if you're looking to stir up controversy; worse choice if you're looking for critical accolades.

But beyond the terrible lead single, there are some gems hidden beneath the 'hot damn, I've got creative freedom now' time to make the execs regret it' theme of the album. 'Beautiful' is a uh, beautiful song, inspirational to anorexics and fat chicks alike. Platitude-drenched lyrics, but musically quite something. Much in a similar vein, 'The Voice Within' is tacky but powerful all the same. 'Walk Away' sounds sexy, despite being one of the only songs on the album that makes no effort to, certainly not lyrically. Aguilera is smooth and sultry during the verses, soaring during the chorus. Similarly sultry is 'Loving Me 4 Me', jazzy and cool straight through. 'Cruz' is traditional teen-pop pap, but Aguilera brings it to another level, making it one of the highlights on the album. 'Make Over' and 'Underappreciated' are also feature songs on this album, catchy and lyrically pretty strong. What do these songs have in common? When she's not trying so hard to be controversial, she can generate something impressive. When she puts more effort into her vocals rather than finding something that rhymes with 'you make my fallopian tubes feel special', things brighten up.

Throughout the album, Aguilera maintains a few constant themes, which makes the album consistent if nothing else. She celebrates her newfound independence, sexuality cultivated personality. While it gets tiring to listen to, clearly Stripped was an important transitory record for Aguilera to record. While it may not have made sense in 2002, neither would Back to Basics. She's young, she's evolving, and she's growing up. Stripped is just one step of the way, warts and all.

But she also reveals a more respectable aspiration; her desire to empower women and offer support and indirect encouragement to unconfident and damaged young women out there. While this is in incompatible contrast to her image as described earlier, her efforts are admirable. Completely ignoring her image and attitude for the sake of argument, her feminist ideals and attempts to improve female self-image are completely lacking in the pop scene. Yes, she and her backers played a large part in creating this teenaged insecurity, and she continued to champion hypersexuality in music throughout her Stripped period. So while her words may have been empty, the attempt was appreciated.

Some people argue that Aguilera was given too much creative control too early in her career, and it backfired. I'd tend to disagree. The album has its obvious missteps, including the grossly overlong tracklist at 20 songs. This could have been easily trimmed to 11-12 good songs (though, to be fair, the album does include a handful of short interludes which shouldn't fully count toward the tracklisting). But beyond that, Stripped is not the work of an aimless artist who doesn't know how to handle the power vested in her. The album is purposeful, if bloated, and every song was placed intently by Aguilera. There are some frightfully bad songs ('Dirrty'), hopelessly average ones ('Can't Hold Us Down', a lot of the ballads), and due to the long tracklisting and her immaturity as an artist a lot of the songs are too similar to have much impact, especially the slower ones. But if her image had been reigned in by her superiors, if it hadn't been allowed to eclipse Stripped so magnanimously, the album's quality would have been allowed to take centre-stage. I'm not claiming Stripped to be a great record, but it has much more to offer than the singles. In fact, the singles are the least impressive on this album. It's on the other tracks that Aguilera shines. She may be laughably hypocritical as a celebrity and personality, but the girl knows how to sing.



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user ratings (140)
Chart.
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
July 3rd 2006



16081 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Some surprising reccomendations you have over there. I would have put some Natalie Imbruglia, but thats just me.
Nice review, but I tend to think this album ends up being quite enoyable overall when it comes down to it. Beautiful is indeed a beautiful song.This Message Edited On 07.03.06

morrissey
Moderator
July 3rd 2006



1688 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

My rating falls somewhere between 2.5 and 3 but 3 is just way too high considering all the negatives.

Damrod
Moderator
July 3rd 2006



1093 Comments


Go you! :thumb:

Excellent work as always, and just rating. I only really enjoyed Beautiful when it was on the radio, the rest is not really my thing.

Foreskin Fondler
July 3rd 2006



279 Comments


This is a really great review, you appear to be a very sharp fellow. Although I think you should have talked about the album a little more instead talking about how much of a hypocrite she really is.

I do think she has a sexy voice though.This Message Edited On 07.03.06

Liberi Fatali
Emeritus
July 3rd 2006



1588 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I can't really dig this album, bring back the Christina we saw in her self titled debut.

you appear to be a very sharp fellow

He is isn't he.This Message Edited On 07.03.06

Foreskin Fondler
July 3rd 2006



279 Comments


I kinda want to check this out now. My sister has this album maybe she'll burn me a copy.

Foreskin Fondler
July 3rd 2006



279 Comments


He is isn't he.

judging by the name however, I think it's a girl.


Liberi Fatali
Emeritus
July 3rd 2006



1588 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

judging by the name however, I think it's a girl.

Yeah I know, I was just playing with words like a good pundit.

metallicaman8
July 3rd 2006



4677 Comments


Splendid review as always :thumb:

scpttrerulz
July 3rd 2006



130 Comments


Great review. I love Christina Aguilera's voice and I think it remains under utilized on this album. Fighter was a good song. I still enjoy it. But I think she went overboard with the whole tough girl thing. Or maybe this is how a girl would do a Marylyn Manson? Of course, IMO

JohnXDoesn't
July 3rd 2006



1267 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I am beautiful......in every single way.....:p
Very nice and entertaining review, MozThis Message Edited On 07.03.06

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
July 4th 2006



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Beautiful is an awesome song.

Ephemeral
July 4th 2006



144 Comments


Nice review, Moz.

I haven't heard the entire album, only parts from it (my sister owns it) but I have to say, "Beautiful" is a pretty good song.

The Jungler
July 6th 2006



4827 Comments


Once again, good job. I like Christina, though all I've heard is singles. The ones of her self-titled are my favorite although her new single is superb.

Fire Away
July 10th 2006



293 Comments


The guitarists from Guns N' Roses do a rendition of Beautiful at live shows, sounds pretty cool. Yerp.

munky_magik
July 12th 2006



46 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yay for Stripped.
I rather enjoy this album, it could do without some little bits here and there but oh well.

I guess you review was sort of alright as well.

morrissey
Moderator
July 12th 2006



1688 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Hahah I knew you'd find this review somehow you Aguilera fanboy you.

Zesty Mordant
July 12th 2006



1196 Comments


That new song is fucking catchy.

munky_magik
July 12th 2006



46 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

[Quote=Mossy]
Hahah I knew you'd find this review somehow you Aguilera fanboy you.[/quote]
You say that like it's a bad way for a 19 year old male to be?

[quote=Zesty Mordant]That new song is fucking catchy.[/quote]
I still have to hear it

abeautifulleto
September 6th 2006



2 Comments


Stripped is a much better album then most of the "pop queens" albums. It isn't all about love and being happy. She has the most wonderful voice and sings about real things. She doesn't sing about sex on more than 2 songs on this album. She was doing something different and I love her.



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