http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/f484f1b6a55c205be90fa9cb28f7a8bc1ecefcdd.jpg Back To Basics

Christina Aguilera

Back To Basics

RCA Records
Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 3 0
August 12, 2010

Despite Christina Aguilera's claim in the new song "Still Dirrty" that she's "still got the nasty" in her, it would be fair to say that the girl in the assless chaps has undergone a serious de-skankification since her 2002 album Stripped. Perhaps it was inevitable: She married a nice Jewish guy, overhauled her style, kept it low-pro for a couple of years and re-emerged looking like a 2006 Lana Turner in Christian Louboutin pumps.

For her third studio album, Back to Basics, Aguilera demonstrates that the fetish extends beyond her wardrobe. The spirit of old-school jazz, blues and soul inhabits the set, which is divided into two discs: a collection of modern, beat-driven tunes and another rendered with only analog equipment, recorded live and sans samples. Aguilera succeeds in balancing references to jazzbos and soul singers — horns, gospel choirs, the sound of a dusty old vinyl album — with over-the-top kitsch. At the top of the list of Disc One's killers is "Ain't No Other Man" — a zoot-suit riot of a song that, like all the best stuff on Disc One, was produced by DJ Premier. On the Linda Perry-produced Disc Two, the prize goes to the creaky Bessie Smith-sounding "I Got Trouble" and a burlesque vamp called "Nasty Naughty Boy." Then there's "Candyman," which may be a dead rip-off of the Andrews Sisters' "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," but it's fun to hear Aguilera play all three Andrewses and max out on coy naughtiness in her delivery of lyrics such as "He's a one-stop shop/Makes the panties drop."

When it works, Back to Basics raises the hope that Xtina fans everywhere might go digging through crates of vinyl LPs to track down the artists she references. When it fails — as on the incongruous schmaltzfest "Hurt" and the done-me-wrong song "F.U.S.S.," the collection is overindulgent and self-important, proving that twenty-two songs is about ten too many for Aguilera. At one disc, this would have been nothing short of masterful.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “American Girl”

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

    It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

    More Song Stories entries »