Just Be Free
|Just Be Free|
|Demo album by Christina Aguilera|
|Released||August 21, 2001 (United States)|
|Producer||Bobby Allecca, Michael Brown|
|Christina Aguilera chronology|
Just Be Free is a demo album released by Warlock Records featuring music recorded by American recording artist Christina Aguilera. After finishing her run on The New Mickey Mouse Club, fifteen-year-old Aguilera began recording the album with New Jersey-based producers Roberts Alleca and Michael Brown. The pair gave Aguilera the opportunity to use a recording studio and presented her with demo music with the understanding that they could use the material for their own purpose, but also claiming they would not commercially release the recordings. Musically, the album consisted of dance style tracks as well as ballads, and saw Aguilera performing Spanish language songs. The record was conceived to showcase Aguilera's vocals in an effort to reach out to record labels, a venture which actually backfired after the recordings were not very well received among critics.
Six years after the completion of the album and Aguilera had achieved mainstream success, Brown and Allecca released the record without the permission of Aguilera or her management. When Aguilera discovered the release of the album, she hired lawyer Carla Christofferson to help stop the release, as she felt the recordings were not the quality she was associated with at that time. Warlock Records then filed their own lawsuit in an effort to continue with the release, and finally the case settled out of court. Aguilera requested that a letter noting background information be featured inside each copy. Critically, the album was not well received, and although critics praised her vocals, they panned the record's cheap production and lyrics. Just Be Free has sold over 128,000 copies in the United States.
After news that The New Mickey Mouse Club would be filming its final season, Aguilera sought out a record deal. She spent time in Philadelphia to record demo tracks with various producers, hoping to have an album released by the time she had finished high school. While taping the final season of the show, she began working with New Jersey based producers Roberts Alleca and Michael Brown. The pair eventually built a relationship with Aguilera and her family, offering her studio time. They told her that the demo recordings she would produce would be their property, but also that they would never commercially release the material. She recorded eleven "rough and unfinished" tracks which then went on to become the Just Be Free studio sessions.
A sample of the song "Just Be Free"
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The early tapes were conceived as a way of introducing Aguilera to the music industry, described as a "foot in the door" attempt to build interest in her musical abilities. During the recording sessions, Aguilera experimented with different languages, recording songs such as the title track "Just Be Free" in Spanish. Although the rightful writers of the content have been disputed, the recording sessions have been described as influential on future recordings from Aguilera. Musically the album generally consisted of ballad material which was created in an effort to showcase Aguilera's vocal talents although in addition to the ballads recorded in these sessions, dance music became a prominent theme throughout the eleven tracks she recorded during this time.
Lawsuit and release
After discovery that Alleca and Brown would be releasing the album, Aguilera started developments to sue the pair in an effort to stop the release. Aguilera filed a suit against Warlock Records and the affiliates Platinum Recordings and JFB Music for "improper use of her name and license on the upcoming album Just Be Free". Carla Christofferson, her lawyer at the time, explained that "We're trying to stop them from releasing these early recordings which is not the quality she is associated with right now." However, Warlock Records president Adam Levy felt that despite Aguilera disliking the material, he found it to be a look into her life at the time of recording. He stated "It's a great look at what she was doing, We're pleased [to be putting the record out]. I'm more pleased for the album's producers who wanted to get it out. I hope the fans can appreciate it." Christofferson responded by alleging that Warlock Records tried to "boot strap" on Aguilera's success. In response to the lawsuit, Warlock Records filed their own lawsuit in an attempt to ensure the release of the record. During the proceedings, Aguilera agreed to let Warlock Records release Just Be Free after reaching a settlement with the company and its affiliates. She allowed the release under the condition that the label would have to include a letter written by Aguilera in each album released.
|“||Just Be Free was recorded when I was 14 and 15 years old. At that young age, I made the recordings as a possible stepping stone to a career in music, which is my ultimate passion. They were made just so that I could get my foot in the door of the music business. I did not intend that the recordings would be widely released, especially after I signed with a major record label. I have not updated or finished the versions recorded in my childhood, and they are being released "as is," although I tried to prevent the release for several years. The recordings do not in any way reflect my current musical taste and where I am as an artist. The growth and vocal development I experienced as I matured into young adulthood is not reflected in the recordings. The album of new recordings that I intend to release this fall will be the album that truly reflects my artistry, my vision, and my passion. The Just Be Free recordings will hopefully be a footnote in a musical career that I dream will last for many years to come.||”|
—Aguilera, in the album's accompanying letter, 
The album received generally negative reviews from critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic understood why Aguilera was dissatisfied with the release of the material, calling the songs "pre-professional" and "generic early-'90s dance-pop". He noted that Just Be Free did not match the quality of her self-titled debut album due to its "bland" production. David Browne of Entertainment Weekly gave the album a D-rating, citing the album's production and describing the content as "teen-jailbait" due to lyrics such as "Why don't you stay with me tonight".
Pier Dominguez, author of A Star is Made, commented that the sessions demonstrated "Christina's raw vocal agility" despite calling the content "dull", adding "Christina's hunger for success actually comes through in these songs, as she sings her heart out with strained emotion, trying to sound as if she's letting all her inhibitions run free. If she did in fact co-write the songs then they were also a demonstration of Christina's songwriting dexterity, because the album's lyrics could be called unoriginal and perhaps even cheesy, it could not be said that they were not catchy". Similarly, Stephanie McGrath from JAM! Music also saw why Aguilera would not want the album released. Although she recognized Aguilera's potential as a vocalist, she wrote "The songs themselves are terrible, dated club tracks, overwhelmed by poor effects and mundane beats." Despite the negative critical reception, the album has sold over 128,000 copies in the United States and peaked at number 71 on the Billboard 200.
- "Just Be Free" (Bob Allecca; Michael Brown; Christina Aguilera) – 3:43
- "By Your Side" (Bob Allecca; Michael Brown; Christina Aguilera) – 4:07
- "Move It" (Dance Mix) (Bob Allecca; Michael Brown; Christina Aguilera) – 3:55
- "Our Day Will Come" (Mort Garson; Bob Hilliard) – 4:05
- "Believe Me" (Bob Allecca; Michael Brown; Christina Aguilera) – 4:17
- "Make Me Happy" (LaForest Cope; Michael Brown) – 3:54
- "Dream a Dream" (Bob Allecca; Michael Brown; Christina Aguilera) – 4:51
- "Move It" (Bob Allecca; Michael Brown; Christina Aguilera) – 3:44
- "The Way You Talk to Me" (Bob Allecca; Michael Brown; Christina Aguilera) – 3:37
- "Running out of Time" (Bob Allecca; Michael Brown; Christina Aguilera) – 4:05
- "Believe Me" (Dance Remix) (Bob Allecca; Michael Brown; Christina Aguilera) – 4:36
- "Just Be Free" (Spanish) (Bob Allecca; Michael Brown; Christina Aguilera) – 3:41
- Christina Aguilera – vocals, background vocals
- Bob Alecca – Executive Producer
- Michael Brown – Executive Producer
- Bryan N. Calhoun – A&R Supervision
- Amy Knong – Art Direction & Design
- Eliud "Liu" Ortiz – Mixing Engineer
- Greg Smith – Assistant Mix Engineer
- Chris Gehringer – Mastering Engineer
- Dominguez 2003, p. 34
- Dominguez 2003, p. 33
- Reid, Shaheem (2001-05-21). "Christina Aguilera Sues To Stop Release Of Early Recordings". MTV News. Viacom. Retrieved 2011-09-12.
- Reid, Shaheem (2001-07-05). "Early Christina Aguilera Recordings Hitting Stores In August". MTV News. Viacom. Retrieved 2011-09-12.
- Erlewine, Stephen. "Just Be Free". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2011-09-05.
- Browne, David (2001-09-07). "Just Be Free, Christina Aguilera". Entertainment Weekly. Time Warner. Retrieved 2011-09-05.
- McGrath, Stephanie (2001-08-17). "Just Be Free review". JAM! Music. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
- Trust, Gary (2009-12-18). "Ask Billboard: How "TiK ToK" Winds Up At No. 2". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 2011-09-05.
- Credits adapted from the liner notes of Just Be Free, Warlock Records/Platinum Recordings at JFB Music.
- Dominguez, Pier (2003). Christina Aguilera - A Star is Made. Amber Communications Group, Inc. ISBN 1-84449-381-4.