It's the era alterna-fans dreaded. The pop universe is back and it's bloody huge. Pop is a funny genre. A really good pop song can be spotted from miles away, yet it's the bad ones that usually end up dominating the charts. Why? 'Cause that one good song is rehashed, reverbed, redubbed and remixed into eight other songs until it's all just crap.
Teen pop is the new hair rock, it seems, and it's everywhere. One of the many culprits is that Coke can in a wig, Miss Christina Aguilera. Reviewing this album, I opted for headphones and a notebook. Following this, I had an epiphany -- she's so much better when you don't have to watch her strut about like a trained poodle. Seriously! But why does it have to be good when it'll sell by the boatload anyway? It's not about the music any more, that's why -- it's about the lipstick. Meow.
Christina burst on to the scene in 1999 with the release of "Genie in a Bottle", the first single from this, her debut album. The song opens the album and is a horribly soulless attempt at making this little girl sound all grown up, with enough sexual innuendo ("you gotta rub me the right way baby") to justify the nearly naked, writhing, be-pantied Christina in its video. Old men drooled, 15-year-olds tapped their 15-year-old feet and reasonably enlightened beings scoffed opting for UPN over MTV.
"What a Girl Wants" continues the midriff theme, and though annoyingly catchy, seems rather stagnant. Christina's voice is obviously well-cultivated and able, yet here she's holding back. This is a voice clearly caged inside a studio. Sad, really.
As expected on any "good" pop album, the ballads are a-plenty starting with "I Turn to You". It's a nice little song ruined by that horrid pop beat threatening to destroy cheesy love songs for all time. That beat alone drags Christina's Etta James potential back down to Mariah Carey quality. That blasted beat shows up on almost every damn song.
"So Emotional" continues to soak Christina dry of anything remotely resembling credibility with lyrics like "I'm sinking fast into an ocean full of you" that she would have done better simply ripping off the Whitney Houston song than recording this soulless slime. Diane Warren fails to deliver Christina the goods on "Somebody's Somebody" and the inane "la la la" lyrics throughout the Robin Thicke effort "When You Put Your Hands on Me" are purely putrid. Christina sums up her own need for something better by singing "I don't know if a doll can unwind or how to make a person go (huh?), I don't know how to be what you like and simply open the depths of my soul." Umm, yep.
There are lots of oohs and plenty of ahhs and just enough I wants and you likes to keep the kids happy.
However, before you relegate Miss Christina to the bottom of the CD shelf, thanks to my choice of headphones (mostly fearing humiliation if anyone passing by my room at 3.30am actually heard what I was listening to) and that aforementioned epiphany, there are some redeeming features held deep (very deep) within.
The Disney-produced "Reflections", written by the wondrous Matthew Wilder, manages to break out a little. It's a nice song, without said icky-pop beat that Christina effortlessly does justice to.
"Obvious" is a song I'd like to hear Linda Eder or Marti Webb perform on stage minus Christina's again Mariah-inspired vocal gymnastics.
Carl Sturken's (Debbie Gibson, Anastacia) "Love Will Find a Way" and "Love for All Season" surprisingly aren't all that bad. The guitar work is quite stunning harking back the '80s creating two very interesting songs. The lyrics do have a tendency to border on the sublime ("you make me feel the way a woman is supposed to feel") but what can you really expect from a grown man writing for a teenage girl in a boob tube?
"Come On Over (All I Want Is You)" is a catchy teenage party song and clearly the best on the album. It's reminiscent in style to old school Janet Jackson with a hint of Deniece Williams thrown in for good measure. A great song complete with suggestive humping sounds and a bridge Destiny's Child would risk breaking a nail for.
While Christina continues to come off (especially following the rancid update of "Lady Marmalade" for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack) as a rich tart capable only of crimping her hair in the dark and screeching like a banshee waving her right hand in the air whenever placed in front of a microphone, she has a voice that deserves better. Give this girl her Gucci's put her in a field by a bonfire sans backing tape and let the chords run wild. I'd pay to see that.