One of the most accomplished performers of the last decade, Christina Aguilera has sold well over 25 million albums worldwide and cultivated a fan base that crosses generational, racial and gender lines. Now, segueing from the audacious sexuality of her second studio album, Stripped, the chameleon-like performer pays tribute to the music that has inspired her with the August 15th release of Back To Basics (RCA Records).
A modern take on vintage jazz, soul and blues from the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s and beyond, her third studio album is wildly inventive, whose throwback style creates a sound that’s gritty and raw. The album reunites her with producer Linda Perry and offers new collaborations with producers such as DJ Premier. The upbeat first single, ‘Ain’t No Other Man,’ will be world-premiered on the MTV Movie Awards on June 8 prior to its debut on June 12.
‘This is a concept album that follows a bold vision,’ explains Aguilera. ‘The touchstones are Billie Holiday, Otis Redding, Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald what I used to call my ‘fun music’ when I was a little girl.’
The double album, Back To Basics utilizes an orchestra, choir, string quartet and jazz horns, as well as techniques that, according to GQ, ‘blends a vintage-soul sound with state-of-the-art beatsmanship to form a throwback/hip-hop showcase for her outsize voice.’ ‘I Got Trouble’ incorporates a scratchy blues feel, while ‘Candy Man’ recalls the tight harmonies of all-girl groups from the ’30s and ’40s ‘Save Me From Myself’ is an emotionally naked, raw-sounding song dedicated to her husband. ‘Thank You,’ dedicated to her fans, features DJ Premier splicing bits of ‘Genie In A Bottle’ with fan voicemail messages. Also sure to appeal to Aguilera fans is the risqu ong ‘Nasty Naughty Boy’ (which has a ’20s burlesque feel) and the sassy club track ‘Still Dirrty.’
Aguilera’s backstory is well-known. A native of Staten Island, the pre-teen began performing in local talent shows while growing up in Pennsylvania. In 1992, after appearing on ‘Star Search,’
She joined the cast of the Disney Channel’s ‘The New Mickey Mouse Club.’ In 1998 Aguilera’s song ‘Reflection’ for Disney’s Mulan led to a record deal with RCA and the release of her self-titled debut album in Summer, 1999. The album quickly hit #1 on the strength of its first dance/pop single, ‘Genie In A Bottle’ (which dominated the charts for five weeks) and other chart toppers including ‘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.
In 2001 Aguilera joined forces with Pink, Mya and Lil’ 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 her second album, Stripped. Released in October 2002, it sealed her status as an international superstar while transforming her previous squeaky-clean image into a fully sexualized woman with lots on her mind. Along with the superheated funk of the album’s provocative debut single, ‘Dirrty,’ came such standout tracks as ‘Beautiful,’ ‘Can’t Hold Us Down’ and ‘Make Over.’
Earning her first of three Grammy Awards in 2000 for Best New Artist, her subsequent trophies came in 2001 for ‘Lady Marmalade’ (Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals) and in 2003 for ‘Beautiful’ (Best Female Pop Vocal Performance). Among countless other honors, she is also the recipient of a 2001 Latin Grammy Award for Mi Reflejo (Best Female Pop Vocal Album), a 2000 Billboard Music Award for Female Artist of the Year, and two 2004 Rolling Stone Music Awards (Best Female Performer, Readers’ Pick; and Best Tour, Readers’ Pick, ‘Justified and Stripped’). Voted Sexiest Teen Idol in a VH1 poll, Aguilera’s beauty and charisma have also led Teen People to list her among its ’25 Hottest Stars Under 25′ and Maxim to crown her Best International Female Singer (2000), one of the Sexiest Women of the Year (2003) and #1 on their ‘Hot 100′ List (2003).
Today, while devoting the lion’s share of her time to recording and touring, the 25-year-old is active in a range of philanthropy. A major contributor to the fight against AIDS, Aguilera has participated in the ‘What’s Going On?’ cover project for AIDS Project Los Angeles’ Artists Against AIDS. In 2004 she became the new face for MAC cosmetic company and spokesperson for the MAC AIDS Fund. More recently she became involved in awareness campaigns with YouthAIDS and ALDO. She also sponsors and is actively involved in the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh for battered women and children.