Stripped

It's a shame that the first single from Christina Aguilera's Stripped is "Dirrty." It's hard to hear the song without conjuring up that Girls Gone Wild: Beyond Thunderdome video. The song also completely misrepresents the rest of the album. The title of Stripped screams, "Look at my privates!" but the quieter message is, "Be true to yourself." With its lack of gimmickry and a surplus of sweet Seventies soul, Stripped is almost an album for grown-ups. The sophisticated fare includes the torchy can't-let-go number "Walk Away," the sensual flamenco of "Infatuation" and "Loving Me 4 Me," which is classic R&B make-out music. There are some misses, Lord knows: "Fighter" is a sterile foray into rock, and despite Lil' Kim's presence, the feminist anthem "Can't Hold Us Down" is curiously lifeless. But Aguilera's mighty voice continues to grow richer — on belters such as "Cruz" she can out-Whitney Whitney — and these days she wisely avoids the R&B tic of bending the hell out of every note, "Flight of the Bumblebee"-style. Stripped deserves a fair shot.