Christina Aguilera Set The Stage For A Pop Icon With Range

By Erica Russell

An eponymous album marks a significant second in an artist’s profession. For girls, proudly owning one’s work, physique, and artistry will be particularly highly effective, even political. Throughout Women’s History Month, MTV News is highlighting a few of these iconic statements from among the greatest artists on the globe. This is Self-Titled.

Much has been stated about Christina Aguilera’s voice over the previous two-plus many years. She’s fairly actually been touted as “The Voice of a Generation” — by followers, trend designers, and awards exhibits alike. She was even tapped as a coach for the primary three seasons of the aptly titled TV competitors The Voice, a testomony to her inimitable four-octave prowess. Any pop fan would possible agree that Aguilera’s singing belongs snugly within the higher echelons of recent divadom, subsequent to Whitney, Mariah, and Adele. But the artist sometimes called Xtina has all the time had the vary, and never simply when it comes to her vocal talents.

Much like her pop contemporaries (and a few Mickey Mouse Club friends), Aguilera was initially marketed as a shiny star with bubblegum pop songs to match. Shortly following the discharge of “Reflection,” Aguilera’s career-launching theme tune for Disney’s 1998 animated movie Mulan, Aguilera flew to Los Angeles to file her debut album. When her eponymous file dropped in August 1999, it was packaged within the squeaky clear shrinkwrap of the late Nineteen Nineties components and propped up in opposition to the likes of Britney Spears’s …Baby One More Time, Jessica Simpson’s Sweet Kisses, and Mandy Moore’s So Real, all of which got here out throughout the identical 12 months.

Christina Aguilera’s radio-primed lead single “Genie in a Bottle” sealed the teen-pop deal tighter than, properly, a genie in a bottle. Instantly catchy, oozing innuendo, and constructed round a throbbing, saccharine-yet-suggestive hook, the monitor captured the then-taboo hormonal agony of teenagedom from a woman’s perspective. Controversial upon its launch on account of its provocative lyrics associated to intercourse and self-respect — although hardly the final Aguilera monitor to draw the ire of simply outraged mother and father and curmudgeonly critics the world over — it was however successful for the star, notching No. 1 on each the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and Top 40 charts.

The shiny pop album marked a profitable and profitable debut, and even nabbed the performer a coveted Best New Artist Grammy, but it surely wasn’t every thing Aguilera had wished for. Though the melismatic energy of her literal voice was evident all through the tracklist, her inside voice — comprising her true perspective and inventive preferences — wasn’t essentially being heard. Inspired by artists akin to Etta James and Mariah Carey in her youth, Aguilera had a pure affinity for R&B and soul music. Unfortunately, her place then as a comparatively unknown and freshly signed expertise, not to mention a younger lady, didn’t afford her a lot say over her sound and picture, particularly within the slim mainstream musical panorama of the late ’90s.

“I was held back a lot from doing more R&B ad-libbing,” Aguilera told The Washington Post in 2000. “They clearly wanted to make a fresh-sounding young pop record and that’s not always the direction I wanted to go in. Sometimes they didn’t get it, didn’t want to hear me out because of my age, and that was a little bit frustrating. Since all the success, it’s a little easier to get my opinions across.”

Though the 18-year-old RCA signee didn’t have a hand in writing her debut album — a fast scan of the file’s personnel sees the performer credited solely for vocals and a few vocal association — it was the conviction in her singing that wholeheartedly bought the tracks as her personal. She claimed possession of the songs on Christina Aguilera — written by the likes of pop heavyweights Diane Warren, Steve Kipner, and Shelly Peiken — merely by means of the facility of her voice, which burdened an pressing sense of autonomy that will solely change into extra obvious and absolutely realized on later albums lyrically, musically, and stylistically.

In flip, Christina Aguilera laid the inspiration for Aguilera’s versatility and foreshadowed her want to experiment. It additionally launched a dynamism she’s embraced over the course of her profession. Spanning bubblegum, dance-pop, R&B, soul, ballads, and hip-hop, the album allowed the singer to dip into varied genres and types she’d later discover on her personal phrases, even inspiring some alter egos within the course of.

Christina Aguilera‘s funky, confident follow-up single “What a Girl Wants,” another Billboard Top 40 and Hot 100 chart-topper, double-downed on the teen-pop fare while also dabbling in R&B and mid-tempo electro, elements Aguilera would later lean into on her 2002 album Stripped and 2010 album Bionic, respectively. It also hinted at the themes of independence and female empowerment that would follow Aguilera through her career, notably on Stripped all the way up to 2018’s Liberation.

Similarly, her dance-pop single “Come On Over (All I Want Is You)” — the radio model of which featured a horny new rap verse from the newly minted pop star — was steeped in hip-hop components, a style she’d discover on Stripped with tracks akin to her and Lil’ Kim’s feminist anthem, “Can’t Hold Us Down.” Meanwhile, the soulful “So Emotional” and “Somebody’s Somebody” provided a touch on the formational gospel inspirations to which Aguilera would later commit on songs akin to “Understand” and “Mercy on Me” off 2006’s Back to Basics, an idea album that noticed the star rework right into a retro-pop pinup queen.

And then, after all, there have been the ballads: “Reflection,” “Obvious,” and “I Turn To You,” the latter a glowing karaoke basic for the ages. Balladry would change into a signature for the powerhouse vocalist, in addition to a staple in her elastic discography, with lots of her most sweeping songs — “Beautiful,” “Hurt,” “You Lost Me,” “Bound to You,” “Blank Page,” “Twice” — incomes crucial acclaim and solidifying Aguilera as a contemporary diva, whilst she shifted seamlessly between sonic and aesthetic evolutions.

Ever since dropping her namesake debut album, Aguilera has solely expanded upon her chameleon-like musical and stylistic expression, metamorphosing right into a stripped-down fighter, a basic Hollywood starlet, a membership queen, a burlesque star, a lotus in bloom, and a liberated pop warrior. Christina Aguilera preceded and maybe even afforded her that house to blossom artistically by proving her chops early within the recreation.

In Aguilera’s personal phrases to Cosmopolitan: “I hope I paved the best way and helped set the bottom guidelines that ladies will be any model of themselves they wanna be… and happy with it.” No matter what model of herself Christina Aguilera desires to be, she’s confirmed she definitely has the vary to realize it.

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