While the comparison may seem unusual at first, Christina Aguilera's Back to Basics is the most ambitious conceptual piece attempted by a major pop artist since Green Day's American idiot. Like Green Day, Aguilera succeeds by stretching herself beyond the constraints of her past work and by looking back and pulling together personal influences from her past while knocking the ball out of the park with sincerity, emotion, and, yes, killer hooks.
Christina Aguilera's Big Concept
Christina Aguilera describes herself as a major fan of music of the 20's, 30's and 40's and remembers listening to pop standards and legendary singers as a young girl. Back to the Basics is an effort to reach back to that music to uncover the pulsing core of what makes Aguilera tick as an artist.
She presents the results of her work in 2 pieces. The first disc is a wide-ranging mix of contemporary beats, jazz-influenced horns, and echoes of classic soul that undergird an emotional song cycle not unlike Aguilera's last album Stripped. The second disc, developed as a partnership with songwriter/producer Linda Perry, feels more like a structured stage show that consolidates what Christina Aguilera has learned about herself through the first disc's experiments. The songs exude a new maturity echoing the past, particular in the use of various studio tricks to make the music sound old, but finding a comfortable niche with the best in contemporary pop.
Back to Basics...in Multiple Ways
The album's title Back to Basics is clearly a reference to the use of style elements from the early 20th century foundations of contemporary pop music. However, the songs here seem to also reflect a focus in Christina Aguilera on the basics of her life and what elements are most important.
The album's first disc includes multiple songs celebrating her marriage, a song of reassurance to her mother, and a fascinating tribute to Aguilera's many fans. The importance of self expression, a key focus of Stripped, is also celebrated, particular in "Still Dirrty." She addresses critics of the original "Dirrty" head on singing "Don't tell me what to do / 'Cause I'll never be uptight like you."
Top Songs from Back to Basics
- Makes Me Wanna Pray
- Ain't No Other Man
- Slow Down Baby
- Still Dirrty
- Here to Stay
- I Got Trouble
- The Right Man
The Evoluion of Christina Aguilera, the Artist
Back to Basics is also a statement of an artist clearly in control of the direction of her art. Her first, self-titled, album was easily lumped together with a flood of teen-oriented pop that dominated the charts at the end of the last century. Stripped, the second mainstream studio effort, labored to reach a happy balance between hip hop-drenched pop and songs that yearned to dig deeper into personal emotion and experience. It worked occasionally on songs like "Beautiful," but too often the reecord felt fractured and scattered.
On her new album Christina Aguilera says goodbye to the restrictions of forumulaic radio-friendly pop. By abandoning significant concerns about current pop fads, Back to Basics creates a pop sound that may drive innovation instead of following the pack. Through artistic integrity, musical ambition, and a clutch of solid songs, Back to Basics makes a strong bid to be the pop album of the year.