Is there room on the pop charts for one more ex-Mouseketeer? When the results are as sophisticatedly saucy as Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle,” pedigree isn’t even an issue. A midtempo argument for soulful affection weaves rolling hip-hop rhythms, hypnotic keyboard countermelodies and sensually sensible poetry into a deftly underplayed performance from an eighteen-year-old bombshell whose greatest assets are her powerhouse pipes.
Too bad the rest of this ingenue’s debut skimps on the single’s ingenuity. Anxious to establish Aguilera as heir to Mariah’s diva throne, the usual producer-songwriter suspects (Diane Warren, Carl Sturken, Evan Rogers) clone Monica-Brandy-R. Kelly tunes too closely — “So Emotional” even cribs a Whitney title. Bubble-brained lyrics give Aguilera little substance to spin into gold, so her copious vocal curves and trills sound secondhand. Pop’s next It Girl deserves to be outfitted in something more flattering than the empress’s old clothes.