RCA Records, 2002
REVIEW BY: Adam Mico
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/10/2003
I am (or was) a casual closet fan of Christina Aguilera's singles. It's easily apparent that the shared link between her singles is that they are exceptionally sung and immediately catchy. While viewing the Video Music Awards, I noticed that she was the third wheel in Britney and Madonna's shared moment. After that sad obligatory peck from Madonna (it almost look like 'The Material Girl' spat on her), I wanted to console the updated, coiffed and excessively tanned songstress. Coming to grips with my inability to get her off my mind, need for immediate gratification and obsessive-compulsive nature, I bought Stripped.
So far, four singles have been released from this album. "Dirrty" was the initial delivery. Unfortunately, she got more press for being an audacious minx in her video than for the song, and its updated Michael Jackson-inspired dance-pop did not even reach the top 20. The ballad "Beautiful" smartly changed Christina's tone to sober yet dynamic and became a deserved radio smash. "Fighter" and "Can't Hold Us Down" are weaker, but adequate "Dirrty"-phile tracks that peaked higher than its predecessor due to the strength of "Beautiful" and sans the circus of controversy.
Several spins of Stripped exhibit that it is a lifted blend of a mild Madonna's Erotica, Michael Jackson's Dangerous, Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys. Since nearly two-thirds of the songs are ballads, the singles misrepresent the rest of the album. Unsophisticated words about self-empowerment, need for an orgasmic release and 'motivating' positive messages pour out like an orgy of unedited musings. Within Stripped, any sign of sagacity is nonexistent, but Christina certainly meant well (*wink*).
A couple of decent album tracks surfaced with an intense archaeological dig. Linda Perry's (former 4 Non Blondes lead singer) effort with Pink was exploited to help compose a similar-veined number with "Make Over." Although it sounds completely shocking in the semi-soulful Stripped setting, "Make Over" boasts rabid hooks and definitely coerces return listens. The Alicia Keys-written and produced song "Impossible" uses driveling banter between the two as an intro, before evolving into a fascinating ballad with a depth that is sorely lacking with the balance of Stripped's prosaic pieces.
RCA's naive lack of involvement and/or their gratuitous support was the undoing of Stripped. The overall duration (70 plus minutes), use of three interludes plus one intro and spewed/maladroit lyrics reveal that Christina made this album purblind. With no guide, a disservice was done to this vocal virtuoso. Stripped would be near mainstream perfection if only 10-12 tracks and a professional co-writer were employed. However, her celebrated singing ability and openness to experimentation are stained as a direct result of no reasonable check being applied to filter the young artist's disgorged expressions.
Presently, Christina exists exclusively as a singles artist. If you have yet to expose your wallet to Stripped, wait a couple years for her implicit 'best of' compilation.