Sheds Teen Pop Image
10/29/2002 - detnews
Christina Aguilera considers her new disc, ``Stripped,'' a chance for
people to finally get to know who she really is ?to ``see the bare me.''
Fans are getting an eyeful. The album's first single, ``Dirrty,'' shocked
the usually unshockable audience for music videos by featuring the former
Mousketeer, dressed in a tiny bikini, grinding against other dancers.
The cover of her new disc shows her topless, covered only by her long
locks. And she's completely naked on the new cover of Rolling Stone ?save
for a strategically placed guitar. ``I don't see anything wrong with being
comfortable with my own skin,'' the 21-year-old says in a phone interview
with The Associated Press ahead of the CD's release Tuesday. Not everyone
is as comfortable with her skin as she is. Reaction to the teen-pop idol's
transformation into a sexually charged diva has been decidedly mixed.
While the ``Dirrty'' video has been at or near No. 1 on MTV's ``Total
Request Live,'' the song peaked at No. 48 on the Billboard singles chart.
``Saturday Night Live'' skewered the video's raunch. And Aguilera's scanty
outfits have drawn barbs in the press (including the barely-there halter
top she wore to the MTV Video Music Awards in August). Aguilera acknowledges
that ``obviously, jaws are dropping.'' ``People like to see (singers)
play it safe and it scares people if we go beyond the boundaries sometimes,''
she explains. A graduate of the new Mickey Mouse Club along with Britney
Spears and members of 'N Sync, Aguilera shot to fame three years ago as
part of a teen pop craze. With a powerful voice comparable to Mariah Carey
or Whitney Houston, she scored instant success with songs such as ``Genie
in a Bottle'' and ``Come on Over Baby.'' While she had a sexy side ?she
showed her navel, and the lyrics to ``Genie'' were mildly suggestive (``you've
gotta rub me the right way'') ?her image was sweet. That plus her music
were a successful combination, selling 7.9 million copies of her debut
disc and netting her a Grammy for best new artist in 2000. But Aguilera
says living up to that picture-perfect image made her miserable. ``The
label (RCA Records) wanted to push the cookie-cutter, kind of play-it-safe,
almost virginal kind of imagery that wasn't me,'' she says. ``I really
wanted to squirm away from that, because I really thought it was really
fake and superficial and untrue of what I was about, and it was really
really hard for me to live up to that anymore.'' So instead of cheerful,
pleasing pop tunes, the new disc has brooding ballads, introspective songs
and hip-hop collaborations with Redman and Lil' Kim. Aguilera co-wrote
most of the songs. Her changed look includes black streaks and braids
in her blond hair, and piercings in her nose and underneath her lip, among
other places. In moving away from more sugary pop, Aguilera is not alone.
The teen craze has faded, and those who made their name on that sound
have branched out. The Backstreet Boys' Nick Carter goes for a rock sound
on his debut disc, also being released Tuesday; 'N Sync's Justin Timberlake
moves towards R&B on his solo effort, which bows next week. Spears
experimented with urban dance grooves on her latest disc. But Aguilera
says her new look and sound are genuine. ``I thought by this time the
teen pop thing would still be here. But I see now it is changing anyway,''
she says. ``To keep my own sanity, regardless of where the music industry
was going to go, I needed to be myself.'' ``She's standing up for what
she believes, and she's become more of an individual,'' says Bob Jamieson,
chairman of RCA Music Group. ``She's very responsible for her music, and
she's taking responsibility for her career.'' It's not clear if her fans
will follow. One, Giselle Ascencio, 23, of the Bronx, says she isn't impressed
with Aguilera's new look: ``I think she went a little too out there now.
The clothes are too much for me ?the lack of clothes is too much.'' Aguilera
sees a double-standard in such criticism, noting that videos by male artists
often feature nearly naked women dancing suggestively. She also says there
wasn't as much of an outcry when Lil' Kim showed up at an MTV awards show
a few years ago with a pasty on one breast. ``It's almost a color double-standard
that's not fair,'' says Aguilera. Jamieson says the ``Dirrty'' video is
``no different than what Madonna has done, or what Cher has done. The
greatest artists in our lifetime are artists who in many ways are controversial
and outspoken.'' Yet both he and Aguilera emphasize that ``Dirrty'' is
not indicative of the entire album. The next single is the ballad ``Beautiful,''
which Aguilera describes as ``an anthem for everyone to be able to look
in the mirror and say I'm beautiful.'' ``I love the video,'' she said
of ``Dirrty,'' but ``not all the videos will portray stuff like that.''
Christina pulls a "Mariah"
COLUMN: October 2002 -I just forced myself
to sit through the latest Christina Aguilera video, and, quite frankly,
I feel really 'dirrty.’
The video marks Aguilera’s departure
from pop princess to pop tart. She’s treading in Mariah Carey territory
right now... and, judging from how well Carey’s career has turned
out, Mariah Carey territory is dangerous territory indeed.
What can I say about ‘Dirrty’?
How about this: Aguilera in ‘Dirrty’ makes Britney Spears
in ‘I’m a Slave 4 U’ look like the most modest and chaste
of virgin schoolgirls. At least Spears wore her thong over her pants.
When Aguilera parades her skanky underwear, she leaves nothing to the
imagination. There’s a difference between being erotic and being
plain tasteless, and Aguilera has not only crossed the line but has set
up her entire household in the tasteless territory.
What is so disturbing about this unfortunate
career turn is that Aguilera really has no need to dress and act like
a big ho. Other stars have to skank it up because they lack the talent,
but Aguilera has it all. She can dance, she’s oozing with charisma,
and she’s one of the few pop stars out there right now who can actually
So what’s the motivation behind this
descent into Skanksville?
Two words: sex sells, and that’s
probably what record execs are whispering in Aguilera’s ear. And
yes, she’s going to make a lot of money right now, but after that
she’s going to be remembered as just another major talent who sold
out to appeal to the crotch of the lowliest straight guy.
What the record company should be doing
is giving her the opportunity to cultivate her Celine-Dion-calibre pipes
instead of bowing to the almighty buck.
These kind of career decisions do not lead
to longevity, and Aguilera’s talent deserves longevity. Hopefully
this video will mark the low point of Aguilera’s future E! True
Hollywood story - the part before she's sees the light again.
And now, I must take this final opportunity
to publicly appeal to Aguilera’s good sense: Keep the thong under
your skirt where it belongs and treat your talent with the respect it