It’s been about a couple of years since I’ve seen a reality series in full. In general, the reason I think that is, is because there’s not many reality shows that I can be fully invested in, as in shows that leave me fully satisfied come the seasons end. But I somehow always am sucked in… for more times and many occurrences than I would ever care to admit. For me, I’ve always had this love hate relationship with reality shows, especially singing shows, and it started all the way from Australian Idol back in 2003, stretching all the way to The Voice from a couple of years ago. But I’ve found that I’m easily drawn into reality shows that aren’t just singing shows like Australia’s Got Talent or The Voice. My weaknesses (which I’m not proud of at all!) extends to cooking shows like MasterChef and Iron Chef as well. Thankfully though, I’ve never caught many other variety shows like I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, Survivor, The Amazing Race, Big Brother, Farmer Wants A Wife, The Block and Beauty & The Geek; although I did watch Lego Masters, Australian Ninja Warrior and The Masked Singer a few times. Yet these shows are extremely popular by society’s standards. For me though, in the most general sense I could ever extrapolate, I just find that people’s fascination with everyday people’s lives is quite disturbing… yet then again I’m a culprit and I am part of the problem for certain shows. I’ve often sometimes sat down on the couch on any given night, turned the TV on and done a bit of channel surfing, and then end up on YouTube on my computer instead, simply because reality TV is dominating the channels. I wonder to myself ‘why are these shows on the air’, and then I forget about said reality show, my puzzlement and confusion at them being on the air, and my frustrations… until the next reality TV show. It’s a never-ending cycle of me being completely disinterested in a show, then being sucked in by some clever advertising midway during the season (for singing and cooking shows), then me coming to my senses and drifting away for a bit, then being sucked in for the final week or two weeks. I always thought that that’s the way it was… and it’s only recently that I’ve realised that maybe there’s a reason for me being drawn in by reality shows, and singing shows in particular. On the surface, the incessant need for us to be filled with entertainment, is mindless. Yet a deeper look reveals that singing shows may not be so mindless after all, and may serve a purpose beyond us wanting to be entertained.
So, now that I’ve got your attention; what are all your thoughts on music competitions? Do you think they’re a gimmick, a money grab, or are contestants really hoping to make it big in music from these shows? When people vote and decide who wins, how much do you reckon is a popularity contest, and how much is based on the actual singing ability of the performer? Do the judges really mean what they say when they deliver constructive criticisms, and do the coaches on The Voice really have the interests of the singers at heart? I’m sure the winner of competitions like The X Factor, The Voice, American, Australian or British Idol, ______’s Got Talent and other singing competitions; are deserving and theoretically could go on to very big things. But I think the number of successful winners that are still successful now, is not that many. Guy Sebastian, Damian Leith, Stan Walker (all from Australian Idol), Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks, Kris Allen, and Phillip Phillips (all from American Idol) were all winners who each had varying degrees of success; while artists like Anthony Callea, Katharine McPhee, Mandisa, Danny Gokey, Colton Dixon, Gabby Barrett, Adam Lambert, Jason Castro, Chris Daughtry (from the band Daughtry), Jennifer Hudson, Ricki-Lee Coulter, Shannon Noll and Jessica Mauboy all didn’t win, but each went on to have their share of the spotlight. The Voice… well the only artist I can think of that has made it big was Cassadee Pope, and she’s still a relative newcomer. And for The X Factor- there’s One Direction and Little Mix from the UK, and Dami Im from Australia… And so, if you think about the hundreds and hundreds of iterations of shows there are, and the number of aspiring singers who compete, and then when you look at the number of artists who go one to have satisfying careers, from having their start in a music competition; I’d say from first glance and an educated guess, the ratio of successful to ‘non-successful’ artists is quite low. The chances of going on a show and succeeding is remote. But why are shows like these very popular? It’s simple really. People want to watch a feel-good story, of seeing the ‘little guy’ succeed, and wanting to root for the underdog. Sure, the chances of a singing competition actually helping you succeed- well it’d say it’s pretty low, and you’d want to do the hard work yourself after winning and not rely totally on the fame from the show; but in a general sense, if you’ve struck out from doing music on your own and you want to break into the market- music competitions are a sure thing to get people at least talking about you. I mean, there’s reason why shows like these are still on TV after almost 20 years, right?
To be honest with you, I’m not really a fan of music competition shows. They go on for so long, and they take up a lot of your time, and they suck you in with clever advertising. I promised myself a while ago that I wasn’t going to watch another music competition show after Stan Walker won Australian Idol in 2009- but I watched the X Factor Australia in 2013, and The Voice Australia in 2019 and 2020. And my two cents worth is this. That while these competitions are, competitive for lack of a better word, and over-glamorise the music industry; there’s no substitute for hard work in such a career as this. sure, these shows give exposure to artists- but would these artists have been famous and influential without these shows? Some would say no, but I say yes, that though it may take a little longer, I’m of no doubt that every single artist who is successful (and that term is subjective depending on your own morals and values!) from music competition shows, will be successful without them. Shows only highlight the vocal talent and the personality and demeanour of the artist which is already there… and so should we demonise music competition shows and these artists because we don’t like watching them? No, not my any means at all!
After Australian Idol ended in 2009 after its sixth season, as New Zealander Stan Walker won the competition; I thought that that was that. I assumed that I would never watch another singing show ever- partly because I knew I’d get sucked in- I didn’t really want the show to rule me like it did in 2009; and also because I knew that it’d take way, way more of my time than needed to, and also because it was likely that any singers who were my favourites or preferred winner at the time would be booted out early. I don’t know if I could’ve gone through the emotional yo-yoing again. It probably was just fortuitous that Stan won- because he was that good- but if I had been watching any other year, and if there was any other person that I was rooting for, I’d probably would be sadly disappointed as a result. Hence I decided from the outset after watching Australian Idol for the last time, that that’d be the end of an era. Oh, how wrong I was. Because in 2013, Dami Im came along to the X Factor, and stole all of our hearts in an awesome and fantastic way!
Have you read these excerpts of my blogs of Leona Lewis and Dami Im? Basically I outlined in greater detail (and I could not have said it better!) about my tenuous and strained relationship with singing shows- in one way I loathe them because I know that when someone wins a competition, that doesn’t mean that they’ll succeed in the music industry, and millions of times these young artists are promised the world, and are promised big, big hits and sell out tours… and nine times out of ten it doesn’t happen. But in another way, I am sucked in because I love a good underdog story and I would like to see someone succeed in a talent show, to become like a future Kelly Clarkson or a future Carrie Underwood. So I’m torn a bit. I don’t know if you’ve had similar feelings for reality shows- music shows in particular- but let me tell you these feelings are no fun. They’re like a yo-yo, playing with your emotions, and sometimes when I’m really sucked in… that’s when I’ll sit and watch an episode of a music competition show from start to finish. Yep, that’s very rare for me, so it goes to show you the power of advertising and the nature of how these reality shows are made.
But what do reality shows, and singing shows in particular have to do with influential artists? Surely, I’m not choosing another artist from a talent show… I mean, surely I’m not, right? Well, you’re in luck, cause you’d be right. I’m not writing about another artist from a talent show. Leona Lewis, Kelly Clarkson, One Direction, Carrie Underwood and Daughtry should be enough, don’t you reckon? But you know how I mentioned earlier in this blog that I reckon on the whole, despite the pull they have to me at times, singing shows aren’t that much chop and are mostly for mindless entertainment? That may be true, but despite my views, I’m amazed at how many seasons The Voice and American Idol and America’s Got Talent have been airing for- while Australian Idol is being revived next year, and The Voice (Australia) and Australia’s Got Talent have been airing for quite some time. Shows like this are renewed year after year after year… and though I ask the question many times ‘why’ and ‘for how much longer?’; there’s a silver lining to all of these continuous reality singing shows airing.
The other week or so there was an ad for The Voice Australia 2021. It was advertised as being on Channel 7 (the first season on 7, after many seasons on 9!) and advertised as airing after the Olympics. There was a 2 minute promo (on YouTube and on TV) that showed the judges Guy Sebastian, Keith Urban, Jessica Mauboy and Rita Ora all singing to an excerpt of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling”… and let me tell you, I was hooked. I was bummed out that Delta Goodrem didn’t return for another season of the show… and I was kinda indifferent to Boy George and Kelly Rowland as coaches in general. But the way the current trailer was portrayed… well I’d be watching the premiere, let me tell you that! But herein lies my point. The Voice was branded as a new shiny thing, and like a reboot of sorts… and of course people will flock in droves to something that they haven’t seen or heard before. That’s just how we’re wired as humans. Even though I know that these young artists entering in such competitions will more than likely be only moderately successful… sometimes I still watch anyway. It is indeed mindless entertainment, but the silver lining, I guess for me, is that I’m introduced to even more different kinds of music. Yep, it all stems back to the fact that I had a sheltered childhood and didn’t listen to mainstream music ‘properly’ until around 3 years ago. But because of this blog series, and also because of song choices of contestants of The Voice and Idol… my musical preferences have expanded a bit.
Would it be accurate to assume that I am crediting singing competition shows generally in helping me expand my musical tastes, and helping me grow as a human and in my walk with God and my values and morals? Yep, that’s exactly what I’m saying. I may be watching for the budding young talent- but in my heart of hearts, let me confess that really, aren’t we all just watching for the judges/coaches and their reputation (as singers and songwriters and general all-around nice people)? I’ll admit, if Guy and Keith weren’t a part of the upcoming season of The Voice, I probably wouldn’t watch it- and that’s only because of me not hearing that much of Jessica Mauboy and Rita Ora’s music to be a fan. And I guess a part of why The Voice in the U.S. keep chugging along, despite not yet having produced a star (aside from Cassadee Pope, and she’s still a star in the making!), is because viewers are intrigued about the dynamics every season between the ever-revolving door of coaches, and the impending ‘drama’ certain coaches have with one another in order to boost up ratings, even if judges are indeed friends in real life. One look at The Voice shows us 17 judges floating in and out of the line-up for the past 10 years… with Blake Shelton being the only constant throughout that time- is this because judges are restless? No, I reckon because it makes for good TV. And so as we all are watching the judges and coaches, especially on a show like The Voice, go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth… we realise that this is a ploy for us to be interested in the coaches’ discographies… and not in the young raw talent we were promised.
Call me a cynic, but that’s just how music talent shows are. If we’re not watching for the future stars of tomorrow, we’re diving deep into the music of today and the stars of today- and on some level that’s why I keep watching The Voice. On a subconscious level, I want to keep up to date with Delta Goodrem, Guy Sebastian, Keith Urban and their contemporaries. The Voice is mindless, I’ve said this, but if it leads me to my new favourite artist, can it be that bad? Surely one or two artists out of the 17 coaches on the U.S. version of The Voice is compelling, moving, inspiring, and encouraging enough for me to check out their music and become a fan? The more music artists you listen to and enjoy and love, the more different points of view you have, and the more well-rounded as a person you become, the more grounded you become in your morals, values, belief and faith, don’t you reckon? My thought processes when I saw the new Voice Australia 2021 ad a while ago, was pretty instantaneous and I concluded that I’ll watch the upcoming new season here and there, and then dive deep into the American version and the artists there- surely these coaches must be good for the show to keep on going for this long? And it is in the abyss of The Voice that I found the next artist who I’m to be writing about. And as a vocalist, she is a force of nature, and still someone to be in awe of and inspired by. Christina Aguilera, probably right now famous for being a coach on The Voice for 6 seasons (seasons 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and 10), may not be a household name right now, but her voice is piercing, moving, powerful and compelling, while her songs are moving, inspiring, poignant and heartfelt. A child star in every sense of the world who has kept going and going and going; Christina’s influence is paramount, and there wasn’t any doubt that she’d be included on such a musically diverse and sometimes biased list of 100 artists.
Does it seem like I’ve ‘manufactured’ an introduction based on… something buzzy like the new Voice ad, leading up to my introduction of Christina Aguilera, because I had nothing else to write as a launching pad to introduce Christina Aguilera? I mean, it could seem like I knew who I was wanting to write about and then wrote about an intro based on that person and the Voice ad, via the 6 degrees of separation and all of that. It might seem so, and maybe subconsciously I did. It doesn’t matter though. You all can think what you want, but what matters is that with 5 Grammy Awards, 1 Latin Grammy Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, as well as plenty of awards nominations and wins (nominated for 451 awards, won 221 awards), Christina’s discography, filmography and calibre of her songs speaks for itself. A pop star through and through, with a powerful voice like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand; is there any other reason not to include Christina in this blog list? Like Crowded House a while ago, who’s influence was largely dependent on their hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, Christina’s influence and popularity and impact I reckon is largely dependent on her stirring and compelling voice. A pop star but a different kind of pop star to Pink, Christina’s music hits your soul and tugs at your emotions right away. But let’s dive in further, shall we? Isn’t it time for me to briefly touch upon these songs and how they’ve objectively changed the world?
I’ve always been one to try and open up a conversation, even if I’m criticized for it — ‘Dirrty’ being one of those times, with the chaps and sexuality. I was owning my power; I was tired of older men telling me how I needed to be, what I needed to wear. You know, ‘Is this OK? Is this PC?’ ‘Oh sexy, but not too sexy!’ For Stripped, I took my mask off, and I was like, ‘Screw everything and everybody who’s trying to box me into some kind of stereotype in this pop world.’ I want to be who I am and give other people a voice to be who they are.
I grew up in a very complicated and chaotic environment that was full of domestic violence. When you’re in that, the biggest emotion and feeling is helplessness. To see my mom endure what she did, and to feel so helpless as a child, to not be able to step in or have a voice or a say because you’re too little to do anything. We’re all given the tough tasks that we endure for a purpose, and I feel that has totally inspired me to be the artist that I am, to create the lyrics that I make. [Fans] show me their Fighter tattoos and share liberation stories about how my music has helped empower them. It’s everything, because it turns full-circle, why I experienced that. If I can be that sanctuary or safe space for somebody else who’s going through it, who has no voice and feels helpless, then my job here is done.
Is Christina Aguilera and her discography in my preferred genre lyrically? On the surface, probably not. Because after all, most of these songs are about empowerment, femininity, owning ‘your truth’, female sexuality and body positivity. Most songs are directed women as well. However (and thankfully as well!), even though I thought I wouldn’t relate to Christina’s music, I actually did find myself resonating with quite a number of her songs, like I did with Pink’s music from last week. And with everything that has propelled Christina into the spotlight, inclusive of her massive hits like “Beautiful” and “Reflection”, as well as all of her many collaborations, award wins and nominations, and her investments and endorsements- not to mention the impact her image and her legacy as a sex symbol has had on the music industry- it is these facts alone that cement my positive viewpoint of Christina. With Christina Aguilera, the debut album in 1999, debuting at number one in the US and spawning three US number-one singles: “Genie in a Bottle”, “What a Girl Wants”, and “Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)”; Christina followed her debut album up with Mi Reflejo and My Kind of Christmas (both in 2000), with the former becoming the best-selling Latin pop album of the year. Outside of solo material (8 albums in 1999, 2000, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2010, 2012, and 2018), Christina has topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts twice (with “Lady Marmalade” and “Moves Like Jagger”), while her debut album alone was certified eight times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and had moved 17 million copies worldwide by 2010. Having joined the cast of The Mickey Mouse Club from 1991-94 (a variety show similar to Hey Hey It’s Saturday or Sesame Street), this is how Christina got her big break (her first song “All I Wanna Do” was with Japanese singer Keizo Nakanishi)- resulting in “Reflection” being recorded. You know, that little old smash hit that was the soundtrack recording for the Disney movie Mulan in 1998? Well, later on in 1998, Christina returned to the US from Japan, in order to seek a recording contract. She approached RCA Records (who she is signed to even now to this day); and they told her to speak to Disney instead- RCA was in the midst of financial difficulties. Hence Christina sent in her cover version of Whitney Houston’s “Run to You” to Disney. I don’t know if Christina hoped to record the song “Reflection”… but this was the result, as Christina was ultimately selected to sing “Reflection”; and the song was released in June 1998 and charted on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart at number 15. While we will delve deep into Mulan and the meaning of the powerful and soothing ballad, let us remind ourselves that just because “Reflection” was a hit… doesn’t mean that success has come instantly and easy for Christina.
Let me explain. You might think that a flashy single and some instant cash will create friends in high places and followers to the moon and back. The truth is a bit more sobering. Because while Christina was riding the high of “Reflection” and basking in the success of her self-titled debut album, she was unhappy with her sound and the direction the label wanted to go with her music. The first album, decidedly ‘cleaner’ and more Disney princess-y than the rest of her discography, resulted in Christina serving as album producer and co-writing most of her songs on the 2002 project Stripped. From then on, her sound is more… mature and ‘relevant’ for the times, if you can put it that way? More adult-ish? Christina Aguilera is way more pop than the other albums, with Stripped consisting of R&B, rock and flamenco, Back To Basics being blues, jazz and soul music, and the 2010 project of Bionic being more dance and electronic. Musically, Christina is all over the map, but rooted in the pop stratosphere; and though there were label issues of lyrical and musical freedom and lack of creativity… the fact that she’s still doing music right now, is a testament to her determination, longevity, impact and influence. Her music definitely isn’t for everyone. But it’s for someone. It’s like the starfish story– impacting one person one song at a time. And that, my friends, is something amazing and remarkable- and Christina needs to be proud of herself.
Even with Christina’s determination and resolve, one might still bypass the debut album because of its ‘kid-ish’ themes and undertones. However Christina Aguilera need not be bypassed over in my opinion, as we are introduced to an album filled of emotion, honesty and inspiration…even though Christina never wrote a single track. The album opener “Genie In A Bottle”, one of Christina’s biggest singles to date, is a song seemingly about sex and instant physical pleasure; but a deeper listen reveals a no-holds-barred and hard-hitting anthem about self-respect and setting boundaries. While the concept of a ‘genie in a bottle’ has been around in circles even before Aladdin (the concept is that if you find a bottle or a lamp and rub it, a genie will appear to grant you three wishes), Christina in this song tells her potential partner that she is like a genie and that she will grant them anything if they ‘rub her the right way’. And though this song sounds suggestive and too racy for someone her age (Christina was 18 when the song released!), the song reveals that ‘…my body’s sayin’, “Let’s go”, but my heart is sayin’, “No, no”, if you wanna be with me, baby, there’s a price to pay…’, subtly meaning that a person has to treat her right with respect and dignity to win her heart. A song that is no doubt a track we can all claim for ourselves with respect to the respect we place on our bodies, Christina reminds us that in order for relationships to work, trust and mutual rapport needs to be earnt and built up- and that will only happen if sacrifices are made, like the sacrifices one must make in order to free the genie.
The rest of the album is just as poignant, honest and inspiring as the album opener. “What A Girl Wants”, an R&B pop tune with a similar theme to “Genie In A Bottle”, whereby Christina encourages knowing your boundaries and sticking by them, goes one step further and has Christina praising her partner for always treating her right, and knowing what she wants and what she needs; while “Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)” is a fun, party song with a hint of sensuality, as Christina invites a guy to a party in order to ‘spend more time’ with him. It’s a nothing type of song really, other than it’s fun to listen to and is a track that speaks about our innate desire as humans to connect with each other on whatever level that we can, so… hang on, perhaps the song does mean something after all? I mean, if we’re willing to degrade ourselves to mere sexualised playthings in order to grab the attention of anyone, is that really a good thing? Something to ponder over, am I right? The 90’s themed ballad “Blessed” has Christina praising her partner, proclaiming that she is ‘…blessed for everything you’ve given me, blessed for all the tenderness you show, do my best with every breath that’s in me, blessed to make sure you never go…’; while Christina is optimistic about a burgeoning relationship despite adversity in “Love Will Find A Way”, as the mid-tempo pop tune fervently relays that ‘…no, the rain won’t last forever, find a way to make it better, long as we can stand together, love will find a way…’.
The reflective and contemplative ballad “Love For All Seasons” passionately and fervently reiterates to a partner that Christina will be their ‘love for all seasons’; while Christina also covers the All-4-One quasi-worshipful ballad “I Turn To You”, written by Diane Warren, and originally released for the Space Jam soundtrack in 1996. With the track seemingly sung to God and passionately proclaiming that ‘…for a shield from the storm, for a friend, for a love, to keep me safe and warm, I turn to you, for the strength to be strong, for the will to carry on, for everything you do, for everything that’s true, I turn to you…’, we are met with one of the standouts on Christina’s debut, and a track that is sure to bring tears to your eyes in overwhelming emotion- either in gratitude to our friends and family or in worship to Jesus. Yet it is “Reflection”, also present on Christina Aguilera, that is THE track to listen to from the debut album if you only pick one track. A song sung through the eyes of Mulan, Christina earnestly and emotionally sings out probably what young women, or perhaps young people, are thinking in their minds. With the track lyrically being about wanting to show the world who you are but being afraid and hiding your true self because of fear of disappointment to your family, this song could be viewed as a coming out song; but I for one view the track in the context of the film- and it that way it is applicable to anyone and everyone struggling with self-worth and identity and ability to love yourself the way you are. With Christina belting out ‘…who is that girl I see staring straight back at me? When will my reflection show who I am inside?…’, we are met with a woman who isn’t sure about her identity and is singing this song to reconcile the fact that who she is isn’t who she wants to be.
With Christina Aguilera being part Ecuadorian and part Irish, the stage was set early on in her career for a Spanish only album. And for me I felt Mi Reflejo is honest, emotional and heartwarming, despite me not understanding much Spanish at all. I mean I studied the language in years 7 and 8 at high school, but that was about it. So I wouldn’t be able to tell you if Christina’s pronunciation of the words is ‘Spanish’ enough. Nonetheless, this album of fan favourites and newly-recorded tracks is quite emotional, moving and impactful. With the album featuring 5 Spanish versions of the songs “Reflection”, “Genie In A Bottle”, “I Turn To You”, “What A Girl Wants” and “Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)” (and 3 newly recorded music videos as well!), not to mention a duet with Luis Fonsi… well can I say that I actually like how Christina sings in Spanish, even though it isn’t the language she usually speaks at home? And as Christina reveals in an interview from 2012, she is always receiving criticism for not being ‘Latina enough’- but that has spurned her on further by revealing that there’s a new Spanish album in the works… mind you this interview was 9 years ago! I’ve dealt with that [criticism] my whole life. I don’t speak the language fluently. And I’m split right down the middle, half Irish and half Ecuadorean. I should not have to prove my ethnicity to anyone. I know who I am. I wouldn’t be questioned [about my heritage] if I looked more stereotypically Latina. Whatever that is. All I know is no one can tell me I’m not a proud Latina woman… I dove headfirst into a Spanish-language album for that reason and I’m planning another one even though I don’t speak the language. I’m sure that doesn’t sit well with some people. Mi Reflejo obviously struck a chord with some fans and critics- The album won Christina a couple of Billboard Latin Music Awards and one Latin Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Album; so isn’t that something?
If you’ve recorded a debut album and a Spanish album… what is next? Another studio album or a tour? You’d think so, but with Christina, the third album was… yep, you guessed it. A holiday album! My Kind Of Christmas released at the end of 2000… and my initial thoughts were mixed. Yes even me, who loves Christmas music and can listen to a Christmas song at all times of the year! Because as My Kind Of Christmas hit my ears, I had this sense- is this album trying to outdo Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas? Because that’s the feel that I get. It’s an alright holiday album… but there’s the sense here that Christina is trying too hard at trying to out-sing and outperform. I mean, Christina does have her critics, and she has been criticised at times for the excessive use of melisma, as well for oversinging in her songs and concerts… and sad to say this is the case here. I don’t know, perhaps she wasn’t feeling Christmas when she was singing these songs, perhaps the album was a label requirement, but the result here is that some songs work, and some songs (like “Xtina’s Xmas”) don’t, and are completely unnecessary! Christina Aguilera is still one of today’s most accomplished and powerful vocalists, and hearing her sing about Jesus (for a few tracks!) and about the holiday season where we are all united and are all loving and kind toward each other- is indeed something special that you don’t want to miss. The bulk of the songs here are solid and well worth a listen or maybe a few listens! But unfortunately, I can’t think of a reason to buy this album, as it just feels a bit so-so to me. Songs are technically good but overall lack a bit of passion. But if you’re an out-and-out Christina Aguilera fan, then My Kind Of Christmas will be your kind of Christmas! Though Christina is belting out her vocals with a bit too much force, and isn’t graceful enough with her delivery of her songs; these tracks still have a charm and a catchiness all the same. Maybe they’d have a better feel if they were sung in an acoustic setting?
On My Kind Of Christmas, and especially on “O Holy Night”, Christina’s passion and enthusiasm is dailed to 11 here… however one listen to “O Holy Night”, and then you’ll see why this album was made- for this epically awesome song alone. As an album, Christina possesses so much heart- but is it too much? There’s a pop atmosphere, and a 90’s atmosphere. But a Christmas atmosphere? Not so much. Yet as Christina has such a powerful voice, this album still nonetheless stands out. Maybe a bit too much. Subject matter-wise, the album is essentially a holiday album full of songs about Christmas tradition and the holiday spirit, apart from “Angels We Have Heard On High” and “O Holy Night”. There’s an overt Christmas message in these two songs, but it’s lost amongst the other heart-warming tracks, and Christina’s eloquent, angelic and powerful singing. One of the most beautiful points about this album though, is the fact that Christina majestically recites the Lord’s Prayer in the middle of “O Holy Night”! There are more heartfelt, hopeful and enjoyable tracks here than outright bad songs (save for the last couple of tracks), and overall Christina’s voice does enough to keep us interested. But aside from “O Holy Night”, unfortunately, this album doesn’t hold replay value. My Kind Of Christmas had potential but never lived up to the hype. As much as Christina’s voice was great here, that’s not enough to hold an album that was so disjointed and had not much of a flow. “O Holy Night” is its saving grace here, but this project is only worth a few listens on Spotify. Though if Christina recorded another Christmas album… maybe? Who am I kidding, I’d buy that album in a heartbeat!
Before we dive into Christina’s official second studio album Stripped, I want to make special reference to the elephant in the room. The fact that Just Be Free surfaced in 2001 after Christina recorded the album in 1994 and 1995. In that sense, Christina has received quite a lot of hardship early on in her career, with Warlock Records at the time releasing the demo album Just Be Free in 2001 without Christina’s permission, resulting in lawsuits, confidentiality statements and an unspecified amount of damages. According to Christina, she wasn’t proud of Just Be Free, and these songs do not represent her and her values in the slightest, as “Just Be Free was recorded when I was only 14 and 15 years old… did not intend that the recordings would be widely released, especially after I signed with a major record label. I have not updated or finished the versions recorded in my childhood and they are being released ‘as is,’ although I tried to prevent the release for several years. The recordings do not in any way reflect my current musical taste and where I am as an artist. The growth and vocal development I experienced as I matured into young adulthood is not reflected in the recordings. The album of new recordings that I intend to release this fall will be the album that truly reflects my artistry, my vision and my passion. The Just Be Free recordings will hopefully be a footnote in a musical career that I dream will last for many years to come.” It’s an album that I haven’t listened to, and perhaps I’ll listen to it later on- but I think we’re digressing, right? This project isn’t indicative of Christina’s world views in 2001… so why release the album at the time? It’s all a bit weird, and maybe involves politics we all can’t get our head around?
With more of a handle on her music and her sound, Stripped reveals to us a more mature, vulnerable and authentic sound, where Christina became more involved in the recording process and the behind the scenes work. Standing at a whopping 20 tracks, these songs are imposing, but I guess I’d say that this album is the most impacting and defining of Christina’s career. If you want, you can treat this project as the ‘real debut’ album… only if you want. During the promotion and advertising of Stripped, Christina developed and fostered a new image by adopting the alter ego Xtina, while she also dyed her hair black, and debuted several tattoos and piercings. The album lyrically revolved around the theme of self-esteem while also discussing sex and gender equality… and as a result, there’s a broad spectrum of lyrical themes Christina dives deep into. “Dirrty”, with rapper Redman, is all kinds of unnecessary, as this lyrically explicit and sex-heavy track speaks about the act of having sex with another… and there’s hardly anything positive or uplifting here. Nonetheless, the lead single received significant airplay, and Christina defended the song, calling it empowering and authentic to where she was at in her journey. I have no doubt that Christina put a lot of effort into this song… it’s just that I didn’t connect with it and I don’t think many others did too.
But the rest of Stripped more than makes up for this mishap. “Beautiful”, the album’s second single and probably the most inspiring and thought-provoking song Christina has done in her whole career; dives deep into worthiness, self-acceptance, identity, and self-love. These are all concepts that have been sung before to death… but there’s something magical and God-breathed about Christina’s performance on this track. It truly is heavenly and divine… that’s all I can say to describe this gift from God. Although the music video depicts the song being about LGBTQI+ relationships, the song in and of itself is inspiring to all of us, as we are encouraged to look in the mirror and see ourselves the way God sees us, as beautiful people and as people worthy of love. I’ve heard this song a million times before, and it never gets old, and I always tear up a bit when proclaiming this song over myself. As Christina passionately cries out ‘…we are beautiful no matter what they say, yes, words won’t bring us down, no, we are beautiful in every single way, yes, words can’t bring us down, oh no, so don’t you bring me down today…’, we are encouraged to actively live out the truth that we are beautiful. It’s a hard thing to do, but God sees us as perfect and as beautiful, so let’s act that way, alright? And…if you need some more convincing about “Beautiful”, let’s hear straight from songwriter Linda Perry: I knew the song was meant for her [when Christina started singing it] and then the song became clear what it was about. It was about somebody who didn’t think they were beautiful. It was actually about somebody who is insecure and they’re telling themselves, you are beautiful. We are beautiful. We are beautiful no matter what anybody says. Then this hot chick is singing a song and you’re seeing all the vulnerability from her and insecurity. I was like, ‘Oh, f–k.’ Then the song became clear to me what it was all about. She nailed it one take.
“Fighter”, a get-up-and-get-them type of empowering anthem, is as motivational and inspirational as any song Christina has recorded, as we hear a song where Christina is grateful for presumably her ex (or possibly a former friend) because the ‘breakup’ ‘…makes me that much stronger, makes me work a little bit harder, makes me that much wiser, so thanks for making me a fighter, made me learn a little bit faster, made my skin a little bit thicker, makes me that much smarter, so thanks for making me a fighter…’– but this song can also be interpreted as any adversity and hardship making us stronger (not just a breakup), and thus similar in theme to Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”; while “Can’t Hold Us Down” is a diss on Eminem who bad-mouthed Christina on one of his earlier songs, and also a challenge to men in particular- calling out the double standards that praise men but degrade women, especially in areas of sexual prowess. Though this song semi-champions women being slutty and actively expressing their sexuality, the song could also mean that perhaps the way to go is to look down upon men being sexually deviant instead of praising women… but I guess you can look at this song however you want depending on your views on sex in general.
The nearly 6 minute piano led heartbreaking ballad “Walk Away”, one of the most personal and honest songs on Stripped, speaks about wanting to walk away from a toxic and unhealthy relationship, but not being able to for fear of being alone and unwanted- staying because it seems like the safe thing to do (which I’m sure resonates with some people… and it’s such a complicated and heartbreaking situation!); while “Infatuation” speaks about puppy love and the dangers of going feet first into a relationship when you’re young and have a limited idea of the world and how love works. The album closer “Keep On Singing My Song”, a gospel-infused worshipful type 7 minute melody, speaks about Christina personally wanting to not let words of hate and hurt affect her, because ‘…I believe they can take anything from me, but they can’t succeed in taking my inner peace from me, they can say all they wanna say about me, but I, I’m gonna carry on, I’mma keep on singin’ my song…’; while piano ballad “The Voice Within”, an inspirational melody directed to young girls, is another personal standout. Even though the song is directed predominately to girls, I reckon the track is applicable to everyone, as Christina emphatically relays to us all that ‘…when there’s no one else, look inside yourself, and like your oldest friend, just trust the voice within, then you’ll find the strength that will guide your way, you will learn to begin, to trust the voice within…’, that true satisfaction, happiness and contentment is possible when you trust your instinct and your gut. “It’s Ok”, probably the most important song Christina has ever recorded and probably will record, is about the abuse she, her sister and mother suffered at the hands of Christina’s father; and while the album is littered with more and more songs full of life, vitality, raw emotion and relevant truths, I can’t keep going on this already impressive album… I think I’ve said enough about Stripped to give you an idea that this is Christina’s crowning achievement, don’t you reckon?
My vision for this record was to go back to old blues, jazz and soul music, the music that I love and am inspired by wholeheartedly, [and] combine [that] with the visuals of some of the best era, I think, with the throwback to old Hollywood glam-that kind of retro, pin-up style of sexuality. You know, I thought the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s were such interesting elements to combine with the feel, look and sound, so it was just very exciting and I wanted the entire label to get on the same page with me and be in for this crazy ride that I wanted to go on with the record.
I totally went to bat every single day, I put my whole heart into it. I really opened myself up a lot and I appreciate and admire artists who are ambitious and are able to really take chances and think outside of their own comfort zone. I think the only time we really pave the way for future music and to encourage future artists to be their own individual selves and to express themselves to their fullest capacity is to encourage them to think outside of that safety box. And, yeah, it can feel naked sometimes, but I think it’s for the good of music sometimes and for the good of being an artist, period.
I think it’s unfair if you walk into this record and listen to three songs and make a judgment. You have to really take in this album as a whole [and] give it time before you make any opinion or any judgment on it whatsoever. You have to listen to disc one and you gotta listen to disc two. That’s why I wanted to make it. They’re like fraternal twins. They’re the same theme but attacked in very different styles.
Back To Basics, released in 2006, literally has Christina going back to basics lyrically and musically as well. Standing tall at 22 tracks spread across 2 discs, the imposing track list is extremely daunting. Yet Christina’s passion, emotion and vulnerability here is on full display for all of us to hear, and what other better way to be immersed in a music experience such as this, than to dive straight in? Lead single “Ain’t No Other Man”, a jazz inspired big band type of track, has Christina celebrating her partner (her husband at the time) and letting him know that there’s no other man for her but him, as we all strive to declare this track over our partners whilst we are all in healthy relationships; while the emotional and gut-wrenching piano ballad “Hurt”, about the death of songwriter Linda Perry’s father, dives deep into the concept of forgiveness and the notion that we all need to reconcile our estranged relationships with our loved ones before it’s too late, and while they’re still alive. The song is extremely emotional and honest, and speaks about Linda’s fraught and frosty relationship with her father which never improved, and will never have the chance to improve; while the track also serves as a warning to us all, to enjoy your time on earth and enjoy our time with our family and friends. You never know when death will come knocking.
“Candyman”, with all of its sexual innuendos, comes off on the surface as a sweet jazz inspired track about a guy who really gets Christina, but the reality is that this track is about a toxic relationship one is falling into, and is another subtle warning to not be involved with a ‘candyman’ (someone who is seemingly sweet but is really a bad person on all levels!); while the sassy and no-nonsense “Slow Down Baby” speaks about the importance of boundaries, as Christina speaks directly to people who lust over her, telling them that they can ‘look but not touch’, implying that consent and respect is key in any relationship. Though the track does include sexual imagery, the message is anything but playful and carnal, as Christina relays to us that we ought not to give into our most primal of desires- and that is a message that is both admirable and commendable. “Oh Mother”, similar in theme to “It’s Ok”, and a moving, inspiring, honest and emotional track that pays a tribute and homage to Christina’s mother and the strength she showed whilst copping abuse from Christina’s father, and trying to find a way out; is one of the most personal tracks of Christina’s career, as she emphatically and unequivocally belts out ‘…oh mother, we’re stronger from all of the tears you have shed, oh mother, don’t look back ’cause he’ll never hurt us again, so mother, I thank you for all that you’ve done and still do, you got me, I got you, together, we always pull through…’. It’s a song that is as honest as anything Christina’s ever done- though the track hasn’t reached the heights of “Beautiful”, dare I say that it’s a song that’s more needed in this world? “Here To Stay”, another thought-provoking melody, is similar in theme to “Keep On Singing My Song”, and outlines how Christina isn’t fazed by differing opinions from critics, because after all, she’s in the music industry for the long haul; while the light acoustic guitar and piano prominent ballad “Save Me From Myself” speaks about a love so pure and kind (presumably her husband) that is saves her from herself and her personal demons.
22 tracks on an album is imposing for anyone to listen to in one sitting or two sittings or even three. For me Back To Basics is so rich in lryics and music, and I haven’t even covered half these songs, nor have I listened to all of them fully and intently. But I’ve heard enough to again praise Christina for her versatility and her determination to create an album that is decidedly different that the norm. Even if the album doesn’t resonate with you, no doubt you’ll find that Christina is a once-in-a-generation type of artist. Usually, artists stick with one genre throughout their career, but Christina delves into many. This type of risk taking (and risk taking that actually pays off) is a joy to hear… and can I say that I overall love how Christina is embarking on these projects with 110% invested, just like in Stripped. And not to be outdone, there’s a gospel song thrown into this mega track list as well (“Mercy On Me”) that Christina absolutely kills lyrically and musically (in the best way possible!), so can we immerse ourselves in Back To Basics again? It’s not my first choice of music genre-wise and I do prefer Stripped better… but as far as something totally out there and different music wise, don’t you reckon this project, which is completely underrated, deserves some more love?
With Christina being somewhat of a musical chameleon, that fact is never more present in her 2010 electronic dance album Bionic, which is lyrically predominately about sexual themes and feminism. Not really my cup of tea lyrically, after the highs of both Back To Basics and Stripped; while critical reaction to Bionic was mixed, as reviewers commended Christina’s musical prowess and her experimentation (or expansion) with new styles, but still found it forced and unnatural. The album though, peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and has sold 332,000 copies in the US as of 2019. I guess you could say that it underperformed… but if you’re going out of your genre and it feels forced, can we really expect anything different? One listen from the first single “Not Myself Tonight” reveals a Christina on this album that I’m not especially fond of, especially when she sings carefree and loose lyrics about not being herself and wanting to act out because she can…or words to that effect (even the video is so vulgar and sexually charged that it was blocked on YouTube!)- and though Christina calls this song empowering: ‘Not Myself Tonight’ is all about freeing yourself, freeing your inhibitions, freeing whatever is inside of you that you’ve been holding back or may be a little afraid to let loose and let go up. So, it’s got a little rebellion to it, but it’s all in good fun and it’s just a really “free yourself” sort of an anthem; I for one don’t find this song quite uplifting compared to any other song on the previous two albums. “Woohoo” with Nicki Minaj also does hardly anything to change my mind, as the 5-minute-long song about the act of oral sex really is completely unnecessary. It’s a song that’s 5 minutes too long… and that’s enough said about that. “You Lost Me”, fortunately is one of the saving graces of a mediocre album, with the heartbreaking, haunting and ethereal melody diving deep into a break-up in which the partner is ‘lost’ to Christina after countless times of breaking her trust. It’s a song that extremely dark and picturesque in its music video, and a track where Christina shines vocally. The song though doesn’t fit the electronic sounds and vibe of Bionic… perhaps this song present on the 2012 album Lotus? Regardless, Bionic still is Christina taking a risk and for that fact, this is objectively a bold, courageous and daring album.
“I Hate Boys”, though short at 2 and a half minutes, is a much needed song, and an intense diss at men in general. As Christina reiterates that most men aren’t that cultured and sensitive to women’s needs; this track that should grab all of our attention, as we ensure that we treat everyone with respect, inclusive of women. While the title track speaks about the emotions running through Christina’s head while being pregnant with her son Max: “Bionic to me is the definition of the superhuman abilities we as women have in everyday life. I’ve grown and changed, and I’ve learned so much. I’ve never felt more confident, more secure, more sexy in my life than I do now. I was completely inspired by a lot of electronica music when my son was born and we both were listening to it a lot together. You know, having a child makes you think of the future and the next generation, and I got really inspired by electronica, which is so no-holds-barred with its sound and technology, and I wanted to really experiment with that. He definitely inspired a very playful side of me that I didn’t have prior to having him. He really inspired this album… and got me really in touch with my original pop roots of a decade ago, so it’s been really fun.”; while the heartfelt ballad “Lift Me Up”, one of the standouts on Bionic, teams up Christina with songwriting partner Linda Perry once again, and delivers a powerful ballad about asking for help from a friend during times in need. And as Christina once again reiterates how important this song is to her: “‘Lift Me Up’ was a song that I teamed, once again, with Linda Perry on. She’s always on my ‘go to’ list. She’s just an amazing artist herself and songwriter, and we just make magic together. She and I collaborated on “Lift Me Up”. She’d written the song, as well as, you know, having written “Beautiful” years ago, and took a first listen and knew I have to interpret this song, I have to sing this song. It just was a beautiful light at the end of the tunnel… asking for a little lift, a little guidance, a little help, if you will, out of feeling a little down or distraught. So I knew it was a song that would be relatable to a lot of people.”, we are presented with a song that, thought not as impactful and resonating as “Beautiful”, is in that same category in terms of power, impact and influence.
Is it possible that Christina is compensating for a large time-gap in albums with the extra long track listing of greater than 20 songs? Quite possibly. Regardless, Bionic stands tall at 24 tracks, and though there are quite a lot of sexually themed tracks (“Not Myself Tonight”, “Woohoo”, “Sex For Breakfast”, “Prima Donna”, “My Girls”, and “Vanity”); there’s still nonetheless powerful and emotive tracks scattered around. “Lift Me Up” and “You Lost Me” are the main tracks that stuck out to me from first impressions, but other standouts include tracks like “All I Need” (a lullaby ballad expressing Christina’s love for her son Max), “I Am” (a synth driven mid-tempo radio friendly power ballad relaying Christina’s security in who she is, and an unashamed assertion that everyone can take her or leave her just the way she is!) and “Birds Of Prey” (a confronting melody about the heartbreaking realities of the music industry at large!). despite these highlights, the overall vibe of Bionic was a bit of a mishmash and something that on the whole didn’t connect, unlike Stripped or Back To Basics. I don’t know if it was because of too much experimentation, but Christina tried too hard in my opinion, and it was obvious that this album wasn’t the greatest nor most compelling. Still, Bionic reminds us that Christina is still here and still willing to make risks, even if she falls on her face doing so. That alone should be celebrated, even if the album seems a bit all over the place.
With 2012’s Lotus receiving only 3 singles and an overall mixed review, Christina nonetheless forged on and described the album as a ‘rebirth’ of sorts, following personal struggles including divorce. As such, there’s happy and sad songs on here- it’s musically similar to Bionic, but lyrically more cohesive slightly. “Your Body”, similar in nature to “Not Myself Tonight”, explicitly speaks about sex and the act of pleasing a lover; and is a song that is cringy and uncomfortable to listen to personally. It’s not something I will ever be comfortable with- hearing a song about sex; however critics and listeners gave this track positive reviews- is the song something special about female empowerment that I don’t know about? Let me know guys! “Just A Fool”, with Blake Shelton on guest vocals, is a country themed track that speaks about still loving your ex after a break up, and inspires us to always try to give relationships a second or even third try; while promotional single “Let There Be Love” is an equality/acceptance track about celebrating love in all of its formats. With Christina passionately and ardently relaying to us that we need to lead with love and show love to all that we meet, regardless if we disagree on key issues or not; the track reminds us to hear each other out first and to hear the person’s story before jumping to conclusions if they’re acting in a way we think isn’t right. It’s easy to hate a stranger, but why don’t we get to know someone first before we choose to like or dislike them? After all, won’t the world be a better place with more love in it?
With Lotus having limited exposure on the radio and at the charts apart from these three singles, other tracks that resonated with me were songs I had to actively click on and listen to, judging from the song titles. Songs like “Cease Fire”, “Make The World Move”, “Best Of Me”, “Light Up The Sky” and “Sing For Me” are all resonating, moving and inspiring. “Cease Fire” is a melody about surrendering and never fighting with people you don’t need to fight with, while “Make The World Move” features Cee Lo Green on a pop/dance number about coming together to make the world a better place. “Best Of Me” is a song directed to haters pointing out that they’ll ‘…never get the best of me no more, said you’ll never get the best of me no more, aren’t you tired of throwin’ stones? Try to kick me when I’m down, but you’ll never get the best of me…’, while “Light Up The Sky” is a party anthem that provides hope and encouragement that together we can ‘light up the sky’ and create a generation that changes the world. While “Sing For Me” is a personal, poignant song that means a lot to Christina, as the song brought her back to her love for singing in general: Seeing all the singers, you really come face to face with a lot of people – my teammates especially this season that you’ll get to know – that are predominantly younger. That’s inspiring, because they come up to you and they’re such big fans and they share with you what song touched them the most and how they had to learn every single ad lib and dissect it. As a vocalist it brought me back to, ‘Yeah, that’s what I used to do to my Whitney Houston record and my Mariah Carey record and my Etta James record.’ It brings you back to a place where it becomes your personal responsibility to infuse the next generation with more information about learning every intricate note. That’s why a song called ‘Sing for Me’ is a special song. It’s one of those singer’s songs where if you’re not a vocalist you can’t mess with that song. Lotus may have mixed reviews, but I reckon it’s spades ahead of Bionic and a return to form for the pop singer/songwriter. Though you all may not agree with me… and that’s ok.
I do take my time with records, but yeah, this one was a while in waiting – for many different factors and reasons. I love collaborating so much and taking the time to get to know the people that you’re working with and truly do something meaningful and not just commercialised and cliché. I’m not the artist that’s going to just get a bunch of songs from my label, record it and put it in a little bow and send it off.
Because I am a real vocalist, I have always heard, “Why don’t you just stand and do a bunch of ballads?” That’s just one element of what I do, but it’s not everything. I would be so bored if I sat on the stage and just sang ballad after ballad. I’m an artist. The label was great in giving me the freedom to take my time and do what I wanted. I’m no stranger to knowing how to play the game.
It is an amazing thing whenever things are commercially received and successful. I’ve had those successes with “Genie in a Bottle” and “What a Girl Wants”, and I was still miserable because I wasn’t connected to the music and wasn’t being able to change it. I’ve done my share of that and I see a lot of artists get into that trap of chasing the charts. After I’m dead and gone, I really want the music paid attention to and not because of where I charted or how commercially successful it was, but because the quality has stood the test of time.
The climate right now is interesting because there are so many people that are feeling oppressed or suppressed. I’ve always been about putting out messages that I feel strongly about and about my truth. It’s why I did songs like Beautiful and Fighter so long ago and why I have songs like Fall in Line and Sick of Sittin’ on this album, records that are perfect for anyone that maybe need to find their own truth. We’re in a place where people need to feel liberated and I wanted to reflect that.
A gap of 6 years between 2012 and 2018 usually spells an artist quietly retiring. But Christina, with her stint on The Voice for many seasons and her many, many guest spots and features (which we’ll get to later on in this blog!), this means the release of probably her most personal and emotional album since Stripped. If you’ve read her interview just above about Liberation, you know that Christina got out of The Voice because to her it was so toxic, and now she’s not concerned with singles nor chasing fame, but rather leaving a legacy of songs that people can connect with on a soul level. Because of this fact, Liberation feels more… shall I say purposeful? And encouraging? “Accelerate”, with Ty Dollar $ign and 2 Chainz, is probably one of the unnecessary songs on the album, as the R&B/rap melody speaks about sex in a way that’s similar to “Your Body” and “Not Myself Tonight”, as we’re introduced to an intense song about pleasing your partner. It’s a track that I don’t find endearing nor moving at all, and it is entirely skippable, believe you me.
On the contrary, “Fall In Line” with Demi Lovato showcases both vocalists at their best, as the duo passionately encourage and inspire young women to never let anyone look down on them, and to keep on fighting for equality and for peace. As they ardently declare ‘…it’s just the way it is, and maybe it’s never gonna change, but I got a mind to show my strength, and I got a right to speak my mind, and I’m gonna pay for this, they’re gonna burn me at the stake, but I got a fire in my veins, I wasn’t made to fall in line…’, both Demi and Christina remind us all that women aren’t to be treated less than men. It’s this type of covert sexism that is the most brutal and heartbreaking, and “Fall In Line” address many misconceptions about women, and tells us all that women can’t be walked all over, and shouldn’t be as well. A standout on Liberation as well as Christina’s whole career, “Fall In Line” delivers and delivers greatly! “Like I Do” with Goldlink is another song that is unnecessary on the album, similar in theme to “Accelerate”; while the heavily religious and spiritual song “Twice” poses lots and lots of questions (and probably needs many, many discussions afterwards with family members about what this song actually means!), with Christina pondering the meaning of life and asking herself whether she’d make the same choices if she had to do them again, or different ones. It’s a philosophical song that is unlike anything Christina has done before; while songs like “Maria”, which features Michael Jackson in archive recordings, and is an emotional melody about Christina searching for the lost side of herself, and “Unless It’s With You”, an emotional tear-jerker of a ballad about Christina’s ever-changing views on marriage and love, strengthen an already poignant and heart-warming track list. With Liberation releasing to reasonable favourable reviews, “Fall in Line” was nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, and the album track “Like I Do”, was nominated for Best Rap/Sung Performance– both at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. Liberation may not be the awards-heavy album that Stripped was, but it is a timely reminder of Christina’s prowess as a songwriter and as a singer- and that she has the ability, even now, to encourage, inspire, and create masterpieces.
Apart from her albums and her smash hit singles, Christina was everywhere throughout the past 20-something years. Even during her 6-year break between Lotus and Liberation, and her 4-year breaks between Stripped and Back To Basics (and between Back To Basics and Bionic); Christina was active and doing something. Mostly this came in the form of collaborations. Guest spots with established and up and coming artists- enough to fill an album or two. That is… apart from being a coach on The Voice. “No One Wants To Be Lonely” (Ricky Martin in 2001), “Lady Marmalade” (with Lil’ Kim, M’ya and Pink in 2001 for Moulin Rouge Soundtrack), “Car Wash” (with Missy Elliot in 2004 for Shark Tale), “Tilt Ya Head Back” (with Nelly in 2004), “Somos Novios (It’s Impossible)” with Andrea Bocelli in 2006, “Moves Like Jagger” (with Maroon 5 in 2011), “Do What You Want” (with Lady Gaga in 2013) and “Feel This Moment” (with Pitbull in 2013) were all collaborations Christina undertook over the years- once again showing us her vocal talents and her music versatility. “Say Something” (with A Great Big World in 2013) was also a gigantic smash hit (a song about pleading with the other person in a relationship to be vulnerable, otherwise the relationship would have to end!), as was “Fall On Me with A Great Big World in 2019. “We Remain (for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack in 2013), “Change” (a 2016 standalone single), “Telepathy” (with Nile Rodgers for The Get Down Soundtrack in 2016), “Haunted Heart” (for The Addams Family soundtrack in 2019) and “Loyal Brave And True” (in 2020 for the Mulan live action soundtrack) are also moving and heartfelt stand alone singles and collaborations from Christina. Christina also rerecorded “Reflection” last year for the live action movie of Mulan, while she unveiled brand new tracks “Keeps Gettin’ Better” and “Dynamite”, as well as “Genie 2.0” and “You Are What You Are (Beautiful)” (rerecordings of “Genie In A Bottle” and “Beautiful”) on her best of album in 2008- Keeps Gettin’ Better: A Decade Of Hits. In 2010 (the same year as Bionic), Christina starred in the film Burlesque (a film I haven’t seen!), while she and Cher contributed to the soundtrack of the movie, also released in 2010 (Burlesque grossed US$90 million in the box office and received mixed reviews from critics, who found it clichéd but praised Aguilera’s acting. The film received a nomination for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the 68th Golden Globe Awards. Aguilera recorded eight tracks for the film’s ten-track accompanying soundtrack, and Cher performed the other two. The soundtrack reached number 18 on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold by the RIAA). Christina then provided her voice and acting chops to a role in the TV show Nashville, and sang two songs as well (“The Real Thing” and “Shotgun”), while she also collaborated with contestants on The Voice during the finals week of a number of years she was a judge on The Voice (songs with Chris Mann, Beverly McClellan, Jacquie Lee and Alisan Porter). All in all, it was a very busy time for the pop singer. And add to that there was a pretty public divorce, and the birth of her children… isn’t that a pretty jam-packed schedule? If you were a pop star with that many collaborations and singles… you’d want to write about superficial things to get a breather from it all, right? Well, Christina Aguilera has shown us many times how she doesn’t fit the mould- and that is evident from the many genres she encompasses, as well as the wide subject matter on her songs.
Singing about a wide array of subjects (love, motherhood, marriage, sex, domestic violence, abusive relationships, self-awareness, worthiness, identity, acceptance, searching for meaning in life), Christina has shown us throughout her discography that she is willing to sing about almost anything (that holds a special connection to her heart and soul) whereas outside of music, Christina is extremely vocal about a wide range of issues and present in a wide range of aspects of life away from music. In 2016, Christina founded her own production company, and then signed a contract with Lions Gate Entertainment to develop a music competition program, named Tracks, which was aired on Spike TV; while Christina also is an investor in multiple companies- Pinterest, DraftKings, Lyft and MasterClass — for which she also developed a singing class. There has been plenty of brand endorsements as well, while Christina was paid $1.5 million to submit her baby pictures to People magazine, which became the ninth most expensive celebrity baby photographs ever taken. Christina was also the host of the 2003 MTV Europe Music Awards, where she won Best Female award, in November. Billboard also announced Christina Aguilera as the Top Female Pop Act of 2003, and Billboard also recognized Christina as the 20th most successful artist of the 2000s in 2009. Christina also began headlining The Xperience, a 25-date concert residency at the Zappos Theater in Las Vegas beginning in May 2019 and concluding in March 2020; while in 2007, Christina’s self-titled debut album was added to the definitive list from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, being recognized as one of the “history’s most influential and popular albums”. Since then, Aguilera and her work have influenced various recording artists including Ariana Grande, Ava Max, Camila Cabello, Demi Lovato, Dua Lipa, Grimes, Halsey, Karol G, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Olivia Rodrigo, Rina Sawayama, Rosalía, Sam Smith, Selena Gomez, and Tinashe. Christina Aguilera, known for being a sex symbol and a gay icon, has had so much success and inspiring songs over the years- and if you haven’t heard of her, nor at least her song “Beautiful”… then I’d say you’ve been living under a rock! All jokes aside, this is one singer that you need to check out, and pronto!
I’ve mentioned so, so many times in this blog series previously; that an artists is only as influential as how their life is portrayed outside of the spotlight. For Christina Aguilera, her work outside of music, TV and film are as mentioned in the paragraph above- and when you have songs like “Reflection” and “Beautiful”, do you really need anything outside of music to confirm you’re influential? Like Jennifer Lopez, Richard Marx and Pink, Christina Aguilera’s legacy and status as one of the artists of this generation; is assumed, with the evidence of hit songs and moving and inspiring melodies proof of this fact as well. With Christina writing about a wide variety of lyrical subjects, she has shown that she isn’t a one trick pony. With a number of songs being honest, emotional, real and authentic (aside from the superficial songs in Bionic and Liberation); there’s so many layers to her music- and I’d expect Christina Aguilera to be recording for a long, long, long while yet. I mentioned earlier in this blog installment that music reality shows didn’t have their place. Now I reckon they do. Because I don’t think I would have listened to Christina Aguilera’s music and been so moved and inspired- had I not been a fan of The Voice and had I not checked out that ad and gone on Wikipedia. Maybe I’m placing too much emphasis on singing reality TV shows. Maybe I’m not. The point is that singing shows will always be around. Because a proportion of the population will always watch them out of ritual, or be intrigued because it’s got a judge or coach you’ve never heard of before, or never thought to check out and really listen. And thus- as long as we all have different favourite music artists… if singing shows can point us to the timeless artists and the artists we should be listening to, could they really be all that bad? And now, as I finish off this blog, can I say that Christina Aguilera has the power to do anything now. Sky is truly the limit. Perhaps next it’s time to hear a live album or another Christmas album or an acoustic album or a covers album? So as we sit back and wait for a brand new single or album from Christina Aguilera, let’s dive in deeper into Christina’s discography. No doubt God will show us something completely different next time around. Or perhaps, just perhaps, we need another reminder: that we are beautiful in every single way, and that our reflection shows us who we truly are inside.
I’m months away from anything being announced. I’m simultaneously working on my English record and the follow-up to my debut Spanish album—about 20 years overdue. I’m a perfectionist and want to give everything my best—especially because of the soul-searching I’ve done over the past year and the new perspective I have. I am reinspired and have reconnected with myself. I’ve fallen in love with music all over again, which is a really big thing to say, having spent my entire career in music.
I’m proud of my honesty. It’s a really hard thing to stick to in this business, especially when you’ve grown up under a microscope at a time when society was very critical of young women. I’ve had to work through a lot of insecurities in front of everybody. Every setback has catapulted me forward. I think that’s my fighting spirit. And, at the end of the day, living that truth and being honest has always propelled me forward.
When I was first becoming successful, there was a different mentality in terms of what was accepted or not accepted by the press and tabloids. There was no social media, so you didn’t have an outlet to speak out on your own. You had to rely on journalists and how they reported on you. A lot of times, I’d read something and say, “Wait, I didn’t say it that way.” I’d feel betrayed. I was still at an age where I was understanding myself and life. Media, at the time, was also big on pitting women against each other. And there was a bullying mentality going on in the tabloids. It’s tough to look back on.
Sometimes you forget how bad it was because it was such the norm. I’m currently in Miami, and the other day, I was outside with my daughter. I was thinking I was under the radar. Then, I saw these pictures of us come out. I was really emotional about it because I’ve really tried to be more private. My previous house was right on the street, and tour buses would drive by and treat you like a zoo animal and talk s— about you. The guy on the microphone would read out whatever tabloid story about me right in front of my son’s bedroom. That’s harassment, and it’s petrifying. Seeing those pictures took me right back there. But then I was brought back to that message of: “Who am I living my life for? Me.”
Does Christina Aguilera make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Influential Artists of all Time’ list? Is there any song (other than “Genie In A Bottle”, “I Turn To You”, “What A Girl Wants”, “Beautiful”, “The Voice Within”, “Hurt”, “Oh Mother” and “Reflection”) that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far, or even your walk with God? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!