Stripped (Christina Aguilera)
While her Mickey Mouse Club nemesis, Britney Spears, coyly clings to her not-a-girl/not-yet-a-woman status, Christina Aguilera has no qualms about proclaiming her hot-blooded grown-upness on her ambitious sophomore disc, Stripped. Aguilera appears strategically topless on the disc's provocative cover and totally nude in/i>/a>/i>… See more details below
While her Mickey Mouse Club nemesis, Britney Spears, coyly clings to her not-a-girl/not-yet-a-woman status, Christina Aguilera has no qualms about proclaiming her hot-blooded grown-upness on her ambitious sophomore disc, Stripped. Aguilera appears strategically topless on the disc's provocative cover and totally nude in one of the booklet's photos. Despite all the flesh baring, however, the album is more about being emotionally naked than actually disrobing. On the 20 confessional, genre-hopping songs, Aguilera confirms why her 1999 Grammy win for Best New Artist was no fluke: She has viscerally soulful chops that rival a pre-breakdown Mariah on her best day. With songs such as the classic soulinspired, Alicia Keyspenned "Impossible," the Latin-tinged homage to her ex, "Infatuation," and the girl power hip-hop anthem "Can't Hold Us Down," featuring Lil' Kim, Aquilera graduates with honors from the teen pop ranks of Britney and Mandy to the adult pop-'n'-soul realm of Janet and Whitney. Aguilera also takes a few cues from her rebellious "Lady Marmalade" collaborator, Pink, by working with Linda Perry of 4-Non Blondes. Perry reprises the gritty rock edge she lent to Pink's outstanding Missundazstood on four songs here, including the soul-baring ballad "Beautiful" and the haunting, acoustic guitarlaced "I'm OK," about growing up with an abusive father. What's most surprising is that Aguilera -- for all her pouty camera come-ons and porn star attire -- thinks of herself as a misfit. "Sorry I'm not a virgin/Sorry I'm not a slut/I won't let you break me/Think what you want," she belts on the "Stripped Pt. 2" interlude. While her image may still invite criticism, there's no denying this young woman is an unparalleled talent. Let's just hope Ms. Aguilera soon realizes that she doesn't have to take her clothes off to prove her worth.
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