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Christina Aguilera: Back to Basics

Christina Aguilera: Back to Basics

Release Date:2006

By Mikael Wood | Posted 9/27/2006

You can tell that Christina Aguilera knows sheís a great singer because of the beat she hired DJ Premier to cook up for "Ainít No Other Man," the terrific lead single from her new two-CD set, Back to Basics. Premoís production is about interruption. A sly horn fanfare fizzes upward into a stutter-stepping funk groove that keeps stopping itself for a halftime mini-breakdown. Itís rhythm as its own reward--not exactly what youíd figure a former teen-pop princess accustomed to occupying the spotlight would commission for a comeback showcase. Yet Aguilera kills the damn thing, not simply navigating the beatís complexities but accentuating them with little grunts and bursts of controlled melisma. A lesser singer would fade away inside "Ainít No Other Man," hoping at best to perhaps reflect a bit of its light. Aguilera makes it look easy.

Alas, nothing else on Back to Basics is quite as convincing in regard to Aguileraís desire to join the ranks of "the jazzmakers and the groundbreakers" that she salutes right at the top of the first disc. Itís not a problem of ambition. Scattered across the two CDs--the first produced primarily by Premier, the second entirely by Linda Perry--are dazzling odes to old-school hip-hop, slow-burn R&B, big-band theater music, and í40s-style jazz-pop, all of which Aguilera pulls off with panache to spare. Rather, itís one of depth: Because she spends so much time on Back to Basics proving she can do whatever she sets her mind to, Aguilera forgets to set her mind to much, aside from trying to move as effortlessly as possible from one pastiche to the next. By the end, homegirl sounds exhausted, not enlivened.

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