ALBUM THROWBACK: CHRISTINA AGUILERA | STRIPPED (2002)
Celebrating 20 years since its release in 2022, Christina Aguilera released her sophomore album "Stripped" and has proven that Aguilera wasn't alone in exploring a process of self-identification and declaration that made "Stripped" a landmark LP still influencing today's mainstream scene. Released on Oct. 29, 2002, "Stripped" actual release marked a somewhat odd time for Aguilera, who was displaying her edgy "Xtina" person via her infamous "Dirrty" video and its accompanying promotions. From her Mickey Mouse Club beginnings, she sold coy teen pop more innocently suggestive than overtly sexual. The bubblegum pop cred Aguilera earned with her self-titled debut might have launched her to international fame.
The lead single. "Dirrty" is one of the most aggressive songs ever written about acting slutty in the club. From the lyrics to the choreography to how she walks in the video as if she’s trying to pop a balloon with each step. As a result, it was instantly popular among women and gays and completely terrifying to straight men. It copped a lot of flack at the time for its sexualized imagery. "Dirrty" isn’t representative of the sound of "Stripped" as a whole but was the perfect choice for the first single for an album whose theme, above all else, is defiance. Considering the strong showing for rock and hip hop on "Stripped," there are a surprising number of piano ballads, none more famous than “Beautiful.” The second single and most famous single from the album is an assurance of inner beauty in the face of a world that preys on insecurities. The song earned praise for its production and vocals, and the video was praised for its portrayal of anorexia, LGBTQ issues, and bullying.
Her newfound freedom led her to some unexpected places in terms of sound. While the singles – "Dirrty," "Can’t Hold Us Down," "Beautiful," "Fighter," and "The Voice Within" – are the most modern-sounding as the majority of "Stripped" strikes out in various other directions. There’s an affinity with the sprawling, auteur approach becoming increasingly common. Think Kesha’s "Rainbow," Taylor Swift’s "Reputation," or Ariana Grande’s "Sweetener" – albums whose material may be scattershot but is always held together by the artist. Incidentally, a fighting spirit runs through all those albums as well. Stripped saw a musician emerge from the confines of pop stardom, a move that has undoubtedly been influential on the artists who followed.
"Stripped" was so diverse it was in sound that the album manages to reach all over and do it well. It is just incredible that each song is by the same artist. She enlists Dave Navarro to give you rock on “Fighter,” she brings in Alicia Keys and Questlove to create R&B gems like “Impossible” and “Walk Away,” and Glen Ballard (Michael Jackson, Alanis Morissette) brings out classic Aguilera on “The Voice Within.” While on her first album, Christina imitated her idols, Mariah and Whitney, on "Stripped," she begins to find her voice. If you haven’t listened to "Stripped" in a while and need some inspiration, especially in these tough times we’re currently in, and I recommend you take it for a spin.