Christina Aguilera - Biography
By Marcus Kagler
Out of the many female teen pop sensations of the late ‘90s, the petite girl with the gigantic voice named Christina Aguilera most successfully followed the successful example pioneered by Madonna. Unlike her contemporaries such as Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson, Aguilera possesses an impressive four octave vocal range which is one reason for her lasting popularity. Her penchant for musical and physical reinvention is also taken from the pages of the Madonna handbook. Yet unlike the material girl, Aguilera can sing just about anything, which arguably gives her even more chameleonic possibilities than her inspiration. She also is appealing for both her provocative sensuality and her messages of female empowerment. Given these factors she, not surprisingly, became one of the first international female superstars of the new millennium. In the ever changing popularity contest of mainstream music, Aguilera maintains that appeal by setting new trends with each successive release. Of course, it would all come off as crassly calculated if she didn’t have the voice and talent to back it up.
Aguilera’s father was an Ecuador-born member of the U.S. Army. Her mother, of Irish ancestry, was a Spanish teacher. Christina Maria Aguilera’s early childhood was characterized by her parents’ tumultuous marriage and the family’s numerous relocations due to her father’s job. Born on December 18, 1980 on Staten Island, the young Aguilera was blessed with a miraculously powerful singing voice and began entering talent competitions at age 6. In part due to her father’s physical and emotional abuse, Aguilera’s parents divorced when she was 7. Her father, Fausto Aguilera, became estranged from the remainder of the family who moved to a suburb of Pittsburgh. After establishing herself in numerous local talent shows, Aguilera appeared on the talent show Star Search in 1990 singing an Etta James tune but lost. Her next big break came in 1993, when she joined the cast of The New Mickey Mouse Club alongside a who’s-who of pre-fame luminaries like Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Keri Russell and Ryan Gosling. The show was short lived, however, and Aguilera travelled to Japan to record the duet “All I Wanna Do” with pop sensation Keizo Nakanishi before returning to the U.S. in 1998 to record the track “Reflection” for the animated Disney film Mulan. Aguilera signed a contract with RCA Records. Shortly afterward “Reflection” became a minor adult contemporary hit and was nominated in the Golden Globes’ “Best Song” category.
Joining the already crowded teen vocalist trend of the late 90s, Aguilera released her eponymous debut, Christina Aguilera (1999 RCA). “Genie in a Bottle,” the lead single, combined sexual innuendo and bubbly, hip hop-flavored pop in equal measure and spent an impressive five weeks at #1 on the charts. The follow-up single, “What A Girl Wants” went straight to the #1 and cemented her status as one of the most talented and popular stars of her generation. Christina Aguilera went on to sell a whopping 14 million copies worldwide and picked up a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Aguilera took advantage of the Ricky Martin-lead Latin pop explosion by releasing the Spanish language full-length, Mi Reflejo (2000 RCA International) which was mostly comprised of Spanish versions of songs from her debut. The album exploited her Ecuadorean heritage, although Aguilera doesn’t speak Spanish and learned the songs phonetically. It was another hit and won a Latin Grammy for “Best Female Pop Vocal Album.” The obligatory holiday album, My Kind of Christmas (2000 RCA) followed later that year. Seeking to gain complete creative control over her next album, Aguilera split from her manager Steve Kurtz and subsequently filed a lawsuit against him for fraud.
By 2001, the teen pop movement was showing signs of fatigue and Aguilera’s sophomore album was seen by many as a make or break release. In an attempt distance herself from her teenybopper image, Aguilera jumped head first into highly erotic dance material and reinvented herself as a sleazy sex kitten. This new persona was first exhibited in the one-off collaboration with Pink, Mya, and Lil’ Kim for the remake of Labelle’s barnburner “Lady Marmalade.” The song was featured on the soundtrack of director Baz Luhrmann’s manic musical Moulin Rouge. Unfortunately, her teenybopper persona was resurrected a short time later when a small former label called Warlock released the compilation album, Just Be Free (2001 Warlock) comprised of shelved recordings made when Aguilera was 15. Aguilera never condoned the album’s release and her label, RCA, issued a formal press statement discouraging fans from buying it. The unadulterated sexuality of Stripped (2002 RCA) marked a dramatic shift into more adult-oriented fare with Aguilera acting as producer, arranger, and co-writer. The explicit video for first single, “Dirrty”, initially made the song a hit but ultimately caused a severe public backlash against the pop star. Critical response to the album as a whole was mixed at best, and within a few weeks of its release Stripped was branded a flop. Aguilera’s new, sexually-charged persona didn’t help her image especially when she began making laughable public statements about her supposed alter ego, Xtina. Aguilera then appeared nude (save boots and gloves) on the cover of Rolling Stone holding a strategically placed guitar. With her career spiraling and in desperate need of damage control, Aguilera released the gorgeous and moving ballad “Beautiful,” written by producer Linda Perry. The song showcased Aguilera’s softer side, and won over audiences around the world with it message of female empowerment. “Beautiful” may’ve saved Aguilera’s career, reaching #2 on the U.S. charts and garnering the pop star a Grammy for Best Female Vocal Performance.
Aguilera co-headlined the U.S. portion of the Justified & Stripped Tour with Justin Timberlake in the fall of 2002 before taking her own show international for the Stripped World Tour. Both tours ranked amongst the most successful of the year with Aguilera rarely playing to in venues that weren’t completely sold out. Over the course of the next three years, Aguilera virtually disappeared from the public eye as she wrote and recorded her follow-up. During this period, Aguilera re-appeared in the public eye to marry her longtime music executive boyfriend Jordan Bratman in 2005 and to make a guest appearance on the legendary Herbie Hancock’s album Possibilities (2005 Vektor/Hancock). Perhaps sensing she went a little too far with Stripped’s “Xtina” persona, Aguilera reined in her more explicit tendencies and recorded a mature set of jazz and soul standards from the ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s for her next album. The two disc set Back to Basic (2006 RCA) straddled the line between pristine, danceable neo soul (disc one) and jazz-influenced, slow-burning torch songs (disc two). Back to Basics debuted at #1 on the charts, sold over four million copies and garnered Aguilera yet another Grammy for “Best Female Pop Performance” for the single “Ain’t No Other Man”. Her subsequent international Back to Basics Tour was the most successful tour of 2007 by a woman and featured a three ring circus and lavish costumes designed by Roberto Cavalli. Aguilera joined Tony Bennett at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards for the duet “Stepping Out with My Baby” which garnered a Grammy nomination for “Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.” On January 12, 2008, Aguilera gave birth to her first child, Max Liron Bratman.
Christina Aguilera is currently working on her fourth full-length album with producer DJ Premiere. Aguilera has stated the album’s sound and visual content is both highly influenced by the Pop Art of Andy Warhol and reflective of her fondness for Tokyo.