Album Review: Christina Aguilera, “Christina Aguilera” (1999)

Ah, pop music. You gotta love it. It’s upbeat, it’s fun, it’s catchy, it’s usually sung by incredibly attractive people- what more could you ask for? Well, sure- tends to lack in well-written or in-depth lyrics, and sometimes flirts with being too over-the-top, overproduced or corny. But you can’t deny that there’s at least one pop song that you like (and chances are, deep down inside, you truly love some pop songs).

Pop music was big in the late ’90s, and one of the few singers who cashed in on pop the trend and still managed to stick around after it faded away was Christina Aguilera. The teen-pop star set herself aside from the other pop princesses of the time by actually having a great voice, but her ’99 debut is basically the same as Britney, Mandy, and Jessica’s debut albums- cheesy bubblegum pop music, with a few more-than-just-decent songs.

The album starts off with the sexually charged number one single, Genie In A Bottle. I remember the first time I heard this song and saw the video; I was immediately hooked on the catchy chorus, but at the same time shocked by Aguilera’s bold lyrics (“If you wanna be with me/Baby there’s a price to pay/I’m a genie in a bottle/You gotta rub me the right way”) and sexy sound. The other pop stars at the time weren’t so blatantly sexual in their songs (usually just using cutesy metaphors to instead represent the true meanings of their songs), but Aguilera’s directness was a hit with the pop music world and earned her millions of fans.

What A Girl Wants follows, and was another huge hit from the album. The upbeat pop song is again highlighted by a bouncy and memorable chorus, but Aguilera’s vocals get more of a workout this time around. During the bridge, she hits an impressive high note, showing the world that she not only has a good pop music sound but also the vocals to back it all up. Meanwhile, I Turn To You arrives as the first ballad on the disc. The tender lyrics (“And when I’m down you’re there, pushing me to the top/You’re always there, giving me all you’ve got/For a shield from the storm/For a friend, for a love/To keep me safe and warm/I turn to you”), were penned by the standard love ballad writer of the time, Diane Warren, and made the song a staple at weddings, proms, and even church gatherings (the “you” then referred to God). Aguilera’s vocals start off soft, but build towards the end of the song, proving that she has the chops to compete against the other legendary female vocalists of the time like Celine Dion andWhitney Houston.

So Emotional has a 90’s R&B feel to it (similar to groups like En Vogue), which works surprisingly well. The song is one of the few on her debut album that even gives a hint of the musical direction Aguilera has taken over the recent years, and the song has always been a favorite of mine. The poppy fun returns with Come On Over (All I Want You Is). The track is another upbeat number with soaring vocals and lyrics that allude to sex.

The first song I’d ever heard from Aguilera was the ballad from the cartoon movie, Mulan, called Reflections. The song was originally recorded for the film, but is also included here on Aguilera’s debut. The lyrics tell the story of a young girl unsure of who she is (“Look at me/You may think you see/Who I really am/But you’ll never know me/Every day/It’s as if I play a part/Now I see/If I wear a mask/I can fool the world/But I cannot fool my heart”), and Aguilera’s delivery is appropriately emotional and heartfelt. The song is one of the best on the album, and still one of the best in Aguilera’s history.

Stripped Tour CH - cropped

Love For All Seasons is a mid-tempo delight written by pop music songwriters Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken (who are also responsible for Love Will Find A Way, but more on that song later). Though a bit cliched, I’ve always liked the lyrics in the chorus (“I’ll be the rain in your summer/The chill in your fall/I’ll be what you want/Anything at all/I’ve got a love for all seasons/A love for all time”) and though the song isn’t very original or groundbreaking, it’s still a good song that nicely highlights Aguilera’s vocals. Another Warren song is up next, with Somebody’s Somebody, a mid-tempo R&B-esque love ballad. This song isn’t the typical Warren love ballad, however- this time, the melody is more upbeat, and the lyrics aren’t just romantic drivel and are actually a bit more interesting (“I want two arms to hold me close/I want the thing I need the most/Somebody needing me/So I can feel how it feels to be/Somebody’s somebody”). The song is another I’ve always enjoyed, and despite nearly ten years having passed since I first heard this song, I still like listening to it now.

Before Robin Thicke was releasing his own music, he was busy writing hits for pop stars, and he’s one of the credited writers of When You Put Your Hands On Me. The song is another R&B/pop hybrid, but isn’t really a favorite of mine. The lyrics are horrendously bad (“I don’t know about the travel of time/And I’ve never seen most of the world/I don’t know/Diving out of the sky/Or living like the diamonds of pearls/…When you put your hands on me/I feel sexy/And my body turns to gold”) and even the background music is annoying and cheap sounding. Aguilera seems to be trying too hard to push the envelope and be sexy during the song, and it comes off as just that- her trying too hard. Blessed is a bland ballad that is used for nothing more than a vehicle to showcase Aguilera’s talent, while Love Will Find A Way sounds like an old school Mariah Carey song. Both of the songs, however, are incredibly boring and dull and are usually skipped while I listen to the album.

The disc closes with Obvious. This is another of my favorite songs by Aguilera, and is easily the best song on the CD. The lyrics are stronger than in any of the other songs, as Aguilera grapples with falling in love (“I’m the one who’s in control/Now I’m acting like a fool/Do my feelings show?/Is my face aglow?/Isn’t it obvious?/That I don’t know what/I’m doing anymore/I’m feeling like a little girl/Caught up in emotions/I’m out of control/Isn’t it obvious?”). Her vocals are also amazing, particularly during the final chorus, as the instrumentation builds up and her voice becomes more powerful. I’ve always loved this song, and it’s a wonderful ending to the album.

Christina Aguilera’s self-titled debut is a decent offering. The strength is in the ballads, but Aguilera was always known more for her voice rather than having the catchier songs. The upbeat numbers are good by pop music standards, but the debut CD definitely isn’t Aguilera’s best release.

Rating: 3_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. Genie In A Bottle
2. What A Girl Wants
3. I Turn To You
4. So Emotional
5. Come On Over (All I Want Is You)
6. Reflection
7. Love For All Seasons
8. Somebody’s Somebody
9. When You Put Your Hands On Me
10. Blessed
11. Love Will Find A Way
12. Obvious

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RQDIJ2CvbA]
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