So, I'm thinking that Satan is wearing a parka today, as hell surely must have frozen over for me to not just like Christina Aquilera's new cd, but to like it so much, I'm devoting a blog to it.
It wasn't until Christina's second single "What a Girl Wants" came out in 1999 that I took notice of her. I really liked the song, the voice and the image. She definitely stood out among the pop tarts of her day. Even though Britney seemed to garner more attention, everyone knew it was Christina who would eventually prevail. Being armed with amazing vocal pipes and a hard-edged determination, it was inevitable that she would have the most staying power. As time progressed and Christina got a little older, she seemed hellbent on pushing the sexual image boundaries that had long since been conquered by Madonna and then Janet Jackson. Unfortunately, her image became bigger than her music. When you have limited vocal skills like Madonna, Janet and Britney, it's okay for your image to take over. But when you a power house voice like Christina, you should really make your music the focal point of your music career. To her credit, she never missed an opportunity to show us that she could sing, it just seems that too often we were distracted by her mane of black dreadlocks, skimpy clothing or caked on make up to take notice. And it seemed to me that when she did sing, she over sang every note of every song. It was though she kept showing us, "Yes, this white girl can sing." I actually got to the point where I couldn't stand to see her on tv or hear what she had to say. Then Christina disappeared for a little while. When she re-emerged, she seemed to be channeling Madonna, Gwen and Marilyn with her platinum locks and bright red lips. Regardless of the fact that Gwen still rocks this look, it works for Christina. She doesn't look like she's trying to cop the 40's starlet look, she actually looks like a 40's starlet. Along with her new look came a new CD called "Back to Basics." It's actually a double CD. I had read a few reviews of the cd and decided to take a chance and give her the benefit of the doubt and buy it.
I've listened to the cds many times and I'll go ahead and get the negative stuff out of the way. The first cd is a tribute to some of the jazz and R&B greats from days gone by. My only complaint about this cd is that it rides too heavy on samples. I don't mean the musical samples as much as I mean the samples of people talking and the references to the legends. It's a small complaint, but I had to have at least one. Okay, I have two. The big band 40's number sounds so much like "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" that the lyrics are interchangeable. I was just disappointed not to see the original song given props in the credits.
Now onto the good stuff. You can hear how much her voice has matured. You can also tell that she takes damn good care of her voice as well. And I was so happy to hear her just sing and not oversing every note. She seems to have found the happy medium between singing and vocal gymnastics. That comes with maturity. The older you get, the more you are able to understand your talent and you learn how to reel it in and mangage it. She seems more in control of her voice than ever before.
The first CD is R&B and it opens with a kick ass gospel tune called appropriately, "Makes Me Wanna Pray." This song did make me think of "Like a Prayer," but for no other reason than that was the last pop CD I know of that opened with a pop star backed by a gospel choir in a song that could be about romantic love or a song devoted to a higher power. A few more songs into the disk is "F.U.S.S." Which obviously means Fuck You Scott Storch. For those who don't know who he is, he's one of the biggest producers in the music industry. Notice I didn't say "best." He worked on her last cd and has crafted hits for some of music's most popular stars. He did "Candy Shop" for 50 Cent. She asked him to work on this CD and the rumour is he demanded he and his posse be flown to L.A. in a private jet. Her reply? F.U.S.S. To her credit, without him, she went on to produce a phenomenal album and he went on to produce Paris Hilton's joke of a CD. My favorite song on disk one is "Without You." It starts with a flittering acousitc guitar and then is joined by a sweet little beat and her understated vocal singing about not wanting her man to ever go away. If I had a boyfriend, I could see putting this song on a mix cd for him. It's a sweet song.
I'm definitely more into disk two, which is a cd of songs made to sound like they were written in the 1940's. It starts out with a bang on "Candyman." The tune starts with a big band beat as you hear a marine calling cadence. Then playing all three Andrew Sisters, she sings about the boy with the tattoos up and down his arm. "He's a one stop shop, makes my panties drop, he's a sweet talking, sugar coated, candyman." One thing I like about this cd is that it's just a little bit naughty. The song "Naughty Naughty Boy" will immediately conjure up images of Jessica Rabbit. And rightly so. From the muted wah-wah trumpets to her breathy vocal, it's a sensual/sexual dynamo! The song "I Got Trouble" is recorded so it actually sounds like you're playing an old scratchy record. The effect is even added to her vocal. "Hurt" and "Mercy Me" are powerhouse ballads that give her the opportunity to show off her vocal prowess. "Save Me From Myself" is a great little acoustic number with a beautiful understated vocal. It's a valentine to her husband. My favorite song on the second disk and my favorite song period right now is "The Right Man." This isn't just a song, this is an experience. She sings with a full orchestra and a choir, all of whom are individually credited. The song is about her father not being at her wedding. For me the song seems like she was completely ready to get married knowing her estranged father would not be in attendance and then just before she walked down the aisle, it really hit her what it meant for him not to be there. The song starts off soft and then it takes off with a vocal performance that will give you chills. You can hear how him not being there was the thorn in her side on what was the most amazing day of her life. As the song goes on, you are carried away by her and the choir and just when you think she can't sing any higher or stronger, she goes up that one more time and it is breathtaking. So The Right Man she speaks of in the song is her husband. It's such a beautiful way for her to end such a great 2 CD musical journey. Having not been much of a fan the past few years, she's definitely got me hooked now. I'm excited to see where she goes from here. I'm thinking I may go see her on tour just to hear her sing "The Right Man" live. It's that good.