“People try to tell you what you should do, how you should act, what you should wear, who you should be with. At the time things started happening for me, it was popular to be the squeaky-clean, cookie-cutter pop singer. But that role didn’t speak to me, because it’s so boring and superficial.” -Christina Aguilera, USA Today
I’ve always been a fan of Christina Aguilera’s. Pop Christina, Spanish-Pop Christina, Festive Christina, all Christina’s to be frank. Stripped Christina, even Bionic Christina, have always been my favorite Christina. Reason being is that those Christina’s seemed most authentic to who she really is. She is female, she is empowered, and she won’t hide her fierce sexuality.
For a time Christina was the cookie-cutter pop singer during the promotion of her debut album, Christina Aguilera; however, Stripped changed it all for her, as she was able to be more hands-on with the lyrics, musical and conceptual styling, and completely revamped her management team prior to its release. In a time when pop-stars were either boy-bands or blonde females who gyrated for attention and sales, Christina displayed her sexuality as confidence and power.
“I think it had to do with social standards, too. People want to see a white blond girl stick to a safe, good-girl image. Not that I’m trying to be the bad girl; I just want to be real, to be myself. People don’t really know who I am yet. That’s where the title of my new album came from — it’s about being emotionally stripped down for the first time.” -Christina Aguilera, USA Today
Stripped also discussed double-standards that defined gender roles. Imagine, a multi-millions selling, Grammy award winning pop-star going against the grain and defiantly questioning why men can do one thing, but women can’t… and wanting an answer. Much like Janet’s Velvet Rope, Stripped tapped into her womanhood and emotional turmoils of past and present. She dove deep and this album to this day remains a fruitful example of rule-defying pop.
Christina changed up her sound when she released Stripped’s follow-up, Back to Basics. Referencing the sound of the great vocalists of the 20’s and 50’s. Not only did she continue to pave her own way within pop-realm, she continued to prove that she was not one to be manipulated and was successful. Deep within the album lives an interlude, F.U.S.S. (Fuck You Scott Storch), which she wrote after a successful working relationship turned sour. She hasn’t been and continued to be unafraid of the boy’s club the music industry.
Bionic was a slight return to Stripped’s sexually liberated concepts; however, was both musically and stylistically modern. It didn’t fare well on a commercial front, but has since become a cult-like classic amongst her fans. Bionic touched upon the theme of self-love and discovery, which Christina explored in songs like Not Myself Tonight, Woohoo and Vanity.
FLOP. This term came about and began riddling female pop-stars around the same time Bionic did not reach the commercial heights of its predecessors. Let’s start and finish this conversation by agreeing that, yes, there is a double-standard in music. Though women have continuously outsold their male counterparts (see Mariah, Celine, Britney, Whitney), they are the artists that get called flops. Christina fell victim to this, and continues to face this label head on when she released Bionic’s follow-up, Lotus. Lotus was a return to the pop musical stylings. Christina coined the album a “rebirth” after a divorce and other personal trials; however, the promotional push just wasn’t there. As a fan of Christina’s, something tells me she did not believe in the album as she believed in Back to Basics, Stripped and Liberation.
Then came Liberation. Liberation is off to a strong start. Reminiscent of Stripped, the album is truly Christina’s and no one else’s. From Accelerate’s steamy and explicit music video that would make 00’s Lil’ Kim blush; to Fall In Line, a call to arms that truly shines light for those women who have experienced belittlement at the hands of men who have tried to control them. In Fall in Line, Christina defiantly states“I’m gonna pay for this, they’re gonna burn me at the stake… but I wasn’t made to fall in line.” Christina’s vocals are as strong as ever, and her Intagram feed has been filled with messages about each song that provide further insight into the album and her creation. Liberation is about a message, and she is unequivocally making it clear on all fronts.
Liberation as a whole is a wonderful, strong and confident album. The first three tracks are perfection. They build emotional connection and excitement before the wonderfully produced Maria. The album glides through emotions and messages that continue her conversation based on strength both socially and sexually. Christina made this her own and if men can do it, she can too.
Christina said it perfectly when she sang it on Can’t Hold Us Down “If you look back in history it’s a common double-standard of society. The guy gets all the glory, the more he can score, but a girl can do the same and yet you call her a hoe.” Christina and her output, I believe, are only hindered when she is trying to appease the masses or being told what to sing. Liberation may not be following the traditional roll-out with one “successful” single available prior to its release; however, the album and its roll-out are defiantly Christina… and I’m here for that.
Liberation is out now.