Can't Hold Us Down
|"Can't Hold Us Down"|
|Single by Christina Aguilera featuring Lil' Kim|
|from the album Stripped|
|Released||July 8, 2003|
|Recorded||The Enterprise Studios (Burbank), Conway Studios (Hollywood)|
|Christina Aguilera singles chronology|
"Can't Hold Us Down" is a song by American recording artist Christina Aguilera featuring rapper Lil' Kim, taken from Aguilera's fourth studio album, Stripped. It was released on July 8, 2003 by RCA Records as the fourth single from the album. The song was written by Aguilera, Matt Morris, and Scott Storch, and was solely produced by Storch. An R&B and hip hop song with elements from dancehall, "Can't Hold Us Down" promotes feminism and criticizes gender-related double standard. Media outlets suggested that its lyrics were about Eminem and Fred Durst.
"Can't Hold Us Down" received mixed reviews from music critics, who were ambivalent towards its production and composition. However, the track was nominated a Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals at the 2004 Grammy Awards. The song experienced moderate success commercially, peaked at number 12 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and charted within the top ten of several countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom. The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) eventually certified the single a gold certification.
A music video for "Can't Hold Us Down" was directed by David LaChapelle, and was inspired by the Lower East Side of New York City during the 1980s. Aguilera performed the song during her three major concert tours: Justified and Stripped Tour (2003), The Stripped Tour (2003) and Back to Basics Tour (2006–07). To date, "Can't Hold Us Down" has been widely recognized as a feminist anthem.
Background and release
Hip hop producer Scott Storch was approached during the recording sessions for Stripped, her then-upcoming album in 2002. He wrote and produced numerous songs, including two singles from the album, "Fighter" and "Can't Hold Us Down". Additional writing credits were provided by Aguilera and Matt Morris. Originally, Eve was included as the featured rapper, though her portions of the song were removed after "people's minds and visions" changed. She was replaced by Lil' Kim, who previously worked with Aguilera for the Moulin Rouge! cover version of "Lady Marmalade" in 2001. Aguilera told MTV News that "Can't Hold Us Down" would be an empowering song for woman, stated that the song "is directed to any male who puts down a female for stating her mind".
"Can't Hold Us Down" was serviced as the fourth single from Aguilera's fourth studio album Stripped, preceded by the controversial of the lead single "Dirrty" and the international successes of follow-ups "Beautiful" and "Fighter". The track was first sent to US mainstream radio on July 8, 2003. It was additionally released as a CD single in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Australia on September 8, 22, and 30, respectively; it was also released in France on October 7.
Music and lyrical interpretation
|Problems playing this file? See media help.|
"Can't Hold Us Down" is written in the key of E♭ major. It is an R&B and hip hop song, which incorporates elements of dancehall at its end. According to critic Chuck Taylor from Billboard, the track features "nursery-rhyme" melody. Aguilera and Kim's "faux-R&B" vocals in the song span two octaves, from F3 to F5.
Lyrically, "Can't Hold Us Down" criticizes the "common" societal double standard, which men are applauded for their sexual behaviors, while women who behave in a similar way are looked down upon. At the song's first verse, Aguilera sings, "Call me a bitch 'cause I speak what's on my mind/ Guess it's easier for you to swallow if I sat and smiled". During the chorus, Aguilera indicates that all women "should be seen, not heard", thus she encourages them to "shout louder". Meanwhile, Aguilera comments on the double standard in the second verse, "The guy gets all the glory the more he can score/ Why the girl can do the same and yet you call her a whore". At the bridge, her opinion is supported by Lil' Kim, who questions that a man is able to "give her some sex or sex her raw", but "if the girl do the same and then she's a whore".
Critics thought that the lyrics of "Can't Hold Us Down" were directed towards rapper Eminem, who referred Aguilera in his songs "Off the Wall" and "The Real Slim Shady". MTV News editor Jennifer Vineyard and Spin magazine's Josh Kun speculated Aguilera suggested that Eminem "Must talk so big/ To make up for smaller things"; according to Vineyard, Fred Durst was also referred in the track. According to Kelefa Sanneh, writing for The New York Times, Aguilera stated Eminem only got his fame through controversies, "It's sad you only get your fame through controversy". However, Aguilera had never confirmed that.
"Can't Hold Us Down" performed moderately on charts. In the United States, "Can't Hold Us Down" reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. It additionally peaked at number 3 on the Pop Songs component chart. The song also peaked at number 4 on the Canadian Singles Chart. "Can't Hold Us Down" became a top-ten hit in Oceania. On the Australian ARIA Charts, the song reached a peak position at number 5, and was later certified gold for shipments of 35,000 copies there. Additionally, it reached number 2 on the New Zealand Singles Chart.
In Europe, "Can't Hold Us Down" reached the top ten in several territories. It was a success on the Hungarian Singles Chart, where it positioned at number 4. It additionally charted at number 5 on the Irish Singles Chart and reached number 6 on the UK Singles Chart. The song charted at numbers 7 and 15 on the Belgian Flanders and Walloon Singles Charts, respectively. On the Danish Singles Chart, "Can't Hold Us Down" peaked at number 8, while its highest position on the German Media Control Charts was number 9. Additionally, the single peaked at numbers 11, 12, and 13 on the Swiss, Swedish, and Austrian Singles Charts, respectively. It also reached number 14 on the Dutch and Norwegian Singles Charts. However, the song proved less successful on the Italian and French Singles Chart, where it peaked at numbers 20 and 27.
Critical reception and accolades
"Can't Hold Us Down" received mixed reviews from music critics. Music critic Chuck Taylor for Billboard criticized the song as a "real waste of time and talent". Jacqueline Hodges, wring for BBC Music appreciated Lil's Kim's inclusion on the track for adding "a bit of edge", but was displeased that it failed to break the "monotony" of the remainder of its parent album Stripped. Stylus Magazine's Todd Burns praised the dancehall-influenced melody nearing the end of the track, but opined that the production was overshadowed by underwhelming songwriting. Rolling Stone's critic Jancee Dunn also provided a mixed review, called the song "curiously lifeless".
Josh Kun of Spin, however, wrote a favorable review, complimented the confrontational lyrics for being more aggressive than the works of Britney Spears, previously a cast member on The Mickey Mouse Club with Aguilera, and described the track as a "sisters-doin'-it-for-themselves duet". "Can't Hold Us Down" was nominated for the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals at the 2004 Grammy Awards, but lost to "Whenever I Say Your Name" by Sting and Mary J. Blige. In 2009, Nick Levine from Digital Spy and Nick Butler of Sputnikmusic shared disappointment toward the record's absence from Aguilera's greatest hits album Keeps Gettin' Better: A Decade of Hits.
To date, "Can't Hold Us Down" has been widely recognized as a feminist anthem; Nicholas Ransbottom from The Charleston Gazette placed the song on his list of the top ten songs of female empowerment in 2013, called it a "great anthem about women sticking up for themselves in a misogynistic world". Yasamin Saeidi, a writer for Burton Mail placed the track at number 5 for the same list in 2010; meanwhile it also appeared as the fifth most empowering female anthem on the similar list published by The AV Club in 2010. The magazine described the song as one of Aguilera's "better songs" during the "Stripped era".
The music video for "Can't Hold Us Down" was directed by David LaChapelle, who previously directed the music video for Stripped's controversial lead single "Dirrty" (2002). It was filmed in a Los Angeles soundstage that depicted a 1980s Lower East Side neighborhood in Manhattan, New York City. LaChapelle described the video's concept as his "ode to the '80s". As the video begins, Aguilera is chatting with a group of women. She wears a pink tank top, very short pair of shorts, a mauve baseball cap embroidered with the words "Lady C", a sleeveless sport jacket and white long socks. Her eyes are darkened with mascara, her nose has a gold piercing, and her hair is dyed black. The video features a "non-white" "ethnic-like" body of Aguilera, which resembles residents of a ghetto.
When Aguilera stands up and starts walking, a black man suddenly grabs her buttocks, makes Aguilera stops and causes an argument. As she continues to sing, the nearby women in the neighborhood join her, while the male residents join the man, and form their respective sides in the street, mostly black or Latin people. They, the hip hop artists, performed their own dance skills against each other. At the bridge, Lil' Kim appears in a bikini, a sheer black blouse and dances on her high heels. The argument ends with Aguilera spraying the men with a water hose, which she holds between her legs and parodies the male penis.
The AV Club was not impressed with LaChapelle's direction, wrote that "once David LaChapelle’s video gets factored in, the medium swallows the message". Diane Railton and Paul Watson, authors of the book Music Video and the Politics of Representation noted that Aguilera becomes a black woman in the music video, though she was originally white. They further described the clip's content as "a range of issues concerning the represent of gender and race".
In support of Stripped, Aguilera performed "Can't Hold Us Down" in a number of venues. She performed the song for the first time during the Justified and Stripped Tour, which was held to support Aguilera's Stripped and Justin Timberlake's album Justified (2002). In late 2003, Aguilera continued to perform the track on the former's extension, The Stripped Tour, which happened without Timberlake's acts. The performance in London is included on the singer's first full-length DVD Stripped Live in the U.K. (2004). Later, during her Back to Basics Tour (2006–07), Aguilera performed "Can't Hold Us Down" as a follow-up to "Still Dirrty". The performance, however, was not included in the video release Back to Basics: Live and Down Under (2008).
- CD single
- "Can't Hold Us Down" (Album Version)
- "Can't Hold Us Down" (Sharp Boys Orange Vocal Remix)
- "Can't Hold Us Down" (Jacknife Lee Remix)
*sales figures based on certification alone
- Stripped (Media notes). Christina Aguilera. RCA Records. 2002.
- Unterberger, Andrew (June 19, 2013). "Myley Cyrus' 'We Can't Stop' & 8 Examples of Female Pop Stars Recruiting Hip-Hop Producers". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
- "Can't Hold Us Down by Christina Aguilera". Song Facts. Tone Media. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- Vineyard, Jennifer (October 31, 2002). "Christina Stands Up For The Ladies, Discusses Father's Abuse". MTV News. Viacom. Retrieved August 1, 2013.
- "R&R :: Going for Adds :: CHR/Top 40". Radio & Records. VNU Media. July 8, 2003. Retrieved April 24, 2013.
- "Can't Hold Us Down [Single, Maxi]". Amazon.com (UK). September 8, 2003. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "Can't Hold Us Down [Single, Maxi]". Amazon.com (DE). September 22, 2003. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "Can't Hold Us Down [Single, Import]". Amazon.com (AU). September 30, 2003. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
- "Can't Hold Us Down [CD Single, Import]". Amazon.com (FR). October 7, 2003. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- Heller, Jason; Koski, Genevieve; Pierce, Leonard; Robinson, Tasha; Withrow, Emily; Zulkey, Claire (March 15, 2010). "A soundproofed room of one’s own: 17 well-intended yet misguided feminist anthems". The AV Club (The Onion). Retrieved October 17, 2013.
- "Christina Aguilera feat. Lil' Kim – Can't Hold Us Down". Musicnotes.com. Universal Music Publishing Group. Retrieved April 26, 2013.
- Taylor, Chuck (July 12, 2013). "Singles: Highlights". Billboard (Prometheus Global Media) 115 (28): 36. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
- Sanneh, Kelefa (July 29, 2006). "Beyoncé, Aguilera, Jackson, Simpson and Jewel: Seeking Another Turn in the Spotlight". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved October 16, 2013.
- Burns, Todd (September 1, 2003). "Christina Aguilera - Stripped - Review". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- Railton & Watson 2011, p. 88
- Moss, Corey (May 16, 2003). "Christina, Lil' Kim Get Even 'Dirrtier' For 'Can't Hold Us Down' Clip". MTV News. Viacom. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- Saeidi, Yasamin (March 8, 2013). "Top ten empowering lady anthems". Burton Mail. Staffordshire Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
- Sanneh, Kelefa (September 8, 2002). "The New Season/Music: Idol Returns, Her Image Remade". The New York Times (New York City: The New York Times Company). Retrieved August 11, 2013.
- Kun, Josh (July 15, 2003). "Christina Aguilera, ‘Stripped’". Spin. Spin Media. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- Steve Helling (May 12, 2009). "Eminem and His Many Feuds". People. Time Inc. Retrieved Arpil 25, 2013.
- "Christina Aguilera Album & Song Chart history". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "Christina Aguilera - Chart history". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "Christina Aguilera feat. Lil' Kim - Can't Hold Us Down (song)". Australian Charts. Hung Medien. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2003 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "Lista Es Datum Szerint - Archivum". Association of Hungarian Record Companies. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "2003 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive: 20th September 2003". UK Singles Chart. Official Charts Company. September 20, 2003. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- Hodges, Jacqueline (November 20, 2002). "Christina Aguilera Stripped Review". BBC Music. BBC. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- Dunn, Jancee (November 5, 2002). "Christina Aguilera: Stripped". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media LLC. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "2004 Grammy Winners". MTV Networks. Viacom. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- Levine, Nick (November 10, 2008). "Christina Aguilera: 'Keeps Gettin' Better - A Decade of Hits'". Digital Spy. Hearst Corporation. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- Butler, Nick (December 3, 2008). "Christina Aguilera - Keeps Gettin' Better: A Decade of Hits". Sputnikmusic. Jeremy Ferwerda. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- Ransbottom, Nicholas (March 1, 2013). "Music for Women's History Month". The Charleston Gazette. The Daily Gazette Company. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
- Gymnich, Ruhl & Scheunemann 2010, pp. 244-245
- Chonin, Neva (June 9, 2013). "Aguilera, Timberlake aging well / Sexy, soulful show in Oakland". San Francisco Chronicle (Hearst Corporation). Retrieved August 16, 2013.
- Julia Knowles (director), Sharon Ali (producer) and Christina Aguilera (singer-songwriter, producer) (October 12, 2004). Stripped Live in the U.K. United Kingdom: RCA Records.
- Vineyard, Jennifer (July 11, 2006). "Two Years Later, Aguilera Fans Finally Getting Their Due: A Refund". MTV News (Viacom). Retrieved July 6, 2013.
- Evan, Chris (March 26, 2007). "Concert Review: Christina Aguilera – Back to Basics Tour". Blogcritics. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
- "Christina Aguilera – Back to Basics: Live and Down Under". Sony Music Entertainment. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
- "Die ganze Musik im Internet". Media Control Charts. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "GFK Chart-Track". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "Christina Aguilera feat. Lil' Kim - Can't Hold Us Down". Swiss Hitparade. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "Stripped - Charts & Awards - Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved June 15, 2007.
- "ARIA Charts - End of Year Charts - Top 100 Singles 2003". Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "Dutch charts portal". Dutch Top 40. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "Infinity Charts: German Top 20". Media Control Charts. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "Top-Selling Singles of 2003". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "Swiss Year-End Charts 2003". Swiss Hitparade. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "The Official UK Singles Chart 2003". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- Railton, Diane; Watson, Paul (2011). Music Video and the Politics of Representation. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 88–90. ISBN 9780748633234.
- Gymnich, Marion; Ruhl, Kathrin; Scheunemann, Klaus (2010). Gendered (re)visions: Constructions of Gender in Audiovisual Media. German: V&B Publishing GmbH. pp. 244–245. ISBN 9783899716627.