Two words: red panties.
Christina Aguilera and her infamous choice of underwear feature prominently in the video for her new hit single “Dirrty,” the first single released off her second English-language album, Stripped.
The video shows Aguilera writhing with her dancers in a very dirty shower, getting spanked and prancing around an alarming array of “plushies,” not to mention the posters that read in Thai, “Young Underage Girls.” The album cover features her posing with no shirt on, with only long extensions to barely cover her pierced nipples. The gossip lines are buzzing about a certain diamond hoop she wears below the belt. And don’t forget this month’s cover of Rolling Stone magazine, where she is completely naked, save for a strategically placed guitar.
The Aguilera who debuted in 1999 singing “Genie in a Bottle” â€“ the latest incarnation in the nice-innocent-teen-pop-princess genre â€“ no longer exists. For starters on why she’s no longer in the same category as Britney Spears, Mandy Moore and Jessica Simpson, she admitted to Rolling Stone that she isn’t a virgin, saying ex-boyfriend Jorge Santos was her first “everything.” She talks about her take on sex quite brazenly on “Get Mine, Get Yours,” a song about fun and casual sex. She now has “X-tina” tattooed in large letters across the back of her neck. And then there are those infamous piercings, hairstyles and outfits.
But don’t let the new raunchy image fool you. Stripped loses the sugar and goes for the spice, showing that Aguilera may have changed her look and her public persona â€“ but she can’t change her vocals. Make no mistake about it â€“ she has a true diva voice.
Nowhere are the Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston comparisons as obvious as on the piano driven ballads “The Voice Within” and “Soar.” Aguilera’s high notes don’t sound like dog whistles, whereas sometimes her diva predecessors can be hard on the eardrums. The proof of Aguilera’s growth lies in the fact that not once did her voice get on my nerves.
The most surprising aspects of this album, however, are the songs, which refuse to create comparisons to anyone â€“ not even Mariah and Britney. If you were an Aguilera fan before, chances are good that you won’t like this album, because she really wasn’t joking when she said her brand new image would translate into a brand new sound.
Artists are constantly pontificating that their new albums will be different and include all types of music, and it’s rarely actually been true in mainstream music until now. On this sprawling set, the singer moves between pop, hip-hop, rock, Motown, R&B, Latin, heavy metal and jazz. She cleverly avoids getting lost in the mix, managing to create her own identity from this diverse mix.
The only other mainstream artist with such a varied guest list is Santana. The list of collaborators include Dave Navarro ?uestlove of The Roots and Alicia Keys.
There is no doubt that ballads suit her style. “Walk Away” is a jazz-tinged, soulful love song. Her voice is simultaneously simple and sensual â€“ an impressive combination.
For those still searching for glimpses of the old Christina, “Can’t Hold Me Down” is an effortless pop song which proves Aguilera hasn’t completely abandoned her pop princess roots.
However, the most surprising and startling track on the album is the truly unsettling “I’m Okay,” which painfully narrates the naked hurt created by her father’s abusive behavior. It’s heavy, heart-wrenching material when she sings, “Hurt me to see the pain across my mother’s face/Every time my father’s fist would put her in her place/Hearing all the yelling, I would cry up in my room/Hoping it would be over soon/Bruises fade, Father/But the pain remains the same/And I still remember how you kept me so afraid.”
And that’s before the first chorus ends.
Stripped is a statement of independence that is sexy, scandalous and shocking in a very good way. It is proof time to pay attention to this ex-Mouseketeer, even if it’s just for the nipple rings and red panties.