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Christina Aguilera Reviewed

| August 30, 2006 | 0 Comments

Christina Aguilera
Back To Basics
(RCA)

It would take an artist as complex as Christina Aguilera to record a double album and call it Back To Basics.

Back To Basics is both a confirmation and retraction, a bloated collection of songs who’s resolved it can its cake and eat it, too. Aguilera, despite her inferiority complexes, has long been regarded as the most talented vocalist of the teen pop era, and it’d be juvenile to try and refute its power. Especially on the Steve Winwood-assisted gospel number “Makes Me Wanna Pray,” where her willful oversinging is at least appropriate, she frequently displays the ability to out-lung the choir while maintaining the nubile stomp of her role in the inescapable “Lady Marmalade” cover.

But as you might guess, it’s overbearing — and really exalts Justin Timberlake’s Justified as the rare stab-at-maturity that works. Back To Basics just tries to hard. “Back In The Day,” namedropping Lena Horne and John Coltrane, boasts great production by DJ Premier, but drowns in self-importance. “Understand” would be a touching ballad, but again she thrusts that voice above the song. Even after the Thai teen sex/”Dirrty” disaster, she comes back with the rote “Still Dirrty,” which really should be called “Still Fraught With Contradiction.” Mark Ronson lays a fat brass sound under “Slow Down Baby” and Aguilera seems to heed the advice as she does again on the breathy “Without You,” but “Here To Stay” undermines all that.

A somewhat compact 45 minutes encases Disc One, yet Disc Two adds a whole half-hour more of fluff, somehow managing to make Duke Wellington the model of restraint. “Nasty Naughty Boy” is the requisite striptease — referencing “sugar” below her waist and “Lady Marmalade” again — and “Hurt” is an all-out slowdance assault.

But that this album will be debated so enthusiastically speaks to how much Aguilera has grown and willed her way into at least being considered. Having been the redheaded stepchild between Pink’s agressive dexterity and Britney Spears’ head-cheerleader perch, she might be flailing, but she is trying.

6
— Steve Forstneger

Category: Spins, Weekly

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