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Christina Aguilera

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Christina Aguilera
Liberation Tour (45997616942) (cropped 2).jpg
Aguilera on her Liberation Tour in 2018
Born
Christina María Aguilera

(1980-12-18) December 18, 1980 (age 40)
New York City, U.S.
Occupation
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • television personality
Years active1992–present
Spouse(s)
Jordan Bratman
(m. 2005; div. 2011)
Partner(s)Matthew Rutler (2010–present; engaged)
Children2
AwardsFull list
Musical career
Genres
InstrumentsVocals
LabelsRCA
Websitechristinaaguilera.com

Christina María Aguilera (/ˌæɡɪˈlɛərə/, Spanish: [aɣiˈleɾa];[1] born December 18, 1980) is an American singer, songwriter, and television personality. Her accolades include five Grammy Awards, one Latin Grammy Award, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, while she was also named the "Voice of a Generation" and honored as a Disney Legend in 2012 and 2019 respectively.[2][3] Aguilera is one of the most influential and best-selling music artists of all time selling over 75 million albums and singles worldwide.[4][5][6][7] In 2008, Aguilera ranked at number 58 on Rolling Stone's list of 100 Greatest Singers of All Time and has been noted for inspiring young artists.[8][9]

Before rising to fame, Aguilera appeared on Disney's The Mickey Mouse Club before signing a recording contract with RCA Records in 1998. She achieved worldwide success with her self-titled debut album, released in 1999, which debuted at number one in the US and spawned three US number-one singles: "Genie in a Bottle", "What a Girl Wants", and "Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)". Aguilera followed her debut album up with Mi Reflejo and My Kind of Christmas (2000), with the former becoming the best-selling Latin pop album of the year.[10] Becoming recognized as a prominent contemporary teen pop figure, Aguilera sought to assume artistic control with her follow-up album, Stripped (2002). Its lead single, "Dirrty", showed a drastic change in Aguilera's image as she began to express her sexuality. The second single from the album, "Beautiful", received favorable response for its empowering lyrics and became an anthem for the LGBT community as well as peaking number two on Billboard Hot 100.

Aguilera reinvented her image once more with her second US number-one album, Back to Basics (2006), which drew inspiration from early 20th-century jazz, soul, and blues, and spawned the top-ten singles "Ain't No Other Man", "Hurt", and "Candyman". Following suit, her next three albums, Bionic (2010), Lotus (2012), and Liberation (2018), all experimented with various musical styles and reached the top ten in the US. Outside of solo material, Aguilera has topped the Billboard Hot 100 twice with "Lady Marmalade", and as a featured aritst on "Moves like Jagger". With the latter, Aguilera became the fourth female artist in history to top the chart in three consecutive decades.[11] She also earned chart-topping entries with other collaborations including "Feel This Moment", "Say Something", and "Nobody Wants to Be Lonely".

In addition to her music career, Aguilera also starred in the film Burlesque (2010) and contributed to the soundtrack of the same name. "Bound to You", which Aguilera co-penned for the soundtrack, was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song but lost to another song from the same soundtrack.[12] Aguilera also had a voice-over role in The Emoji Movie (2017), and was a coach on the singing competition television series The Voice for six seasons from 2011 to 2016.

Life and career

1980–1998: Early life and career beginnings

Christina María Aguilera was born in Staten Island, New York City on December 18, 1980 to musician Shelly Loraine Kearns (née Fidler) and United States Army soldier Fausto Xavier Aguilera.[13] Her father was born in Ecuador, and her mother has German, Irish, Welsh, and Dutch ancestry.[14][15] Her family moved frequently because of her father's military service, and lived in places including New Jersey, Texas, New York, and Japan.[16] Aguilera stated that her father was physically and emotionally abusive.[17] To cope with her turbulent household, she used music as a form of escape.[18] Following her parents' divorce when she was six years old, Aguilera, her younger sister Rachel, and her mother moved into her grandmother's home in Rochester, a suburb in the Pittsburgh area.[15] Her mother later remarried to Jim Kearns and had a son with him named Michael.[19] After years of estrangement, Aguilera expressed interest in reconciling with her father in 2012.[20]

As a child, Aguilera was drawn to soul and blues records her grandmother bought and would practice singing, which earned her a reputation as "the little girl with the big voice" in her neighborhood.[21] She aspired to be a singer, and won her first talent show at age eight with a rendition of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)".[16] At age 10, she performed "A Sunday Kind of Love" on the competition show Star Search, and was eliminated during the semi-final round.[18] She performed the song again on KDKA-TV's Wake Up with Larry Richert.[22] During her youth in the Pittsburgh area, Aguilera sang the US national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner", before Pittsburgh Penguins hockey, Pittsburgh Steelers football, and Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games, and the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals.[23] She attended Rochester Area School District in Rochester and Marshall Middle School near Wexford, and briefly attended North Allegheny Intermediate High School before being homeschooled to avoid being bullied.[24]

In 1991, Aguilera auditioned for a position on The Mickey Mouse Club, although she did not meet its age requirements. She joined the television series two years later, where she performed musical numbers and sketch comedy until its cancellation in 1994.[25] Fellow cast members included Ryan Gosling, Keri Russell, Britney Spears, and Justin Timberlake.[26] After the show ended, Aguilera moved to Japan and recorded her first song, "All I Wanna Do", a duet with Japanese singer Keizo Nakanishi.[27] In 1998, Aguilera returned to the US to seek a recording contract. She approached RCA Records, who told her to contact Disney instead because they were having financial difficulties.[28] She sent her cover version of Whitney Houston's "Run to You" to Disney in hopes of being selected to record the theme song "Reflection" for their animated film Mulan (1998).[29] Aguilera was ultimately selected to sing "Reflection"; the song was released in June 1998 and charted on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart at number 15.[30]

1999–2001: Christina Aguilera, Mi Reflejo, and My Kind of Christmas

After "Reflection", Aguilera attracted the attention of RCA's A&R Ron Fair and was signed with the label quickly afterwards.[31][32] RCA was pressured by the contemporary teen pop craze evoked by Aguilera's peer Britney Spears, leading to the label rushing production of the album and aligning Aguilera to be part of the teen pop trend.[33] They released the lead single from the album, "Genie in a Bottle", a trendy pop and R&B track, in June 1999.[33] The single rose Aguilera to stardom, peaking atop the US Billboard Hot 100 and charts of 20 other countries.[34] It has sold over seven million copies as of 2014.[35] Aguilera's eponymous debut album followed in August 1999 and peaked at number one on the US Billboard 200.[16] It was certified eight times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA),[36] and had moved 17 million copies worldwide by 2010.[37] The album produced three other singles: two US number-one singles–"What a Girl Wants" and "Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)", and one US top-five single–"I Turn to You", a cover of All-4-One's song.[38] At the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards in February 2000, Aguilera won Best New Artist.[39]

Aguilera's two following studio albums, Mi Reflejo and My Kind of Christmas, were released in September and October 2000, respectively.[40] The former, a Spanish-language album consisting of re-recorded versions of tracks on Aguilera's debut album and several original songs, topped the Billboard Top Latin Albums for 19 consecutive weeks and was certified six times platinum in the Latin field by the RIAA.[36][41] It won Best Female Pop Vocal Album at the 2nd Annual Latin Grammy Awards in 2001.[42] The latter contains covers of Christmas popular songs and a few original dance-pop tunes,[43] and was certified platinum by the RIAA.[36] In support of her albums, Aguilera embarked on her first concert tour, Christina Aguilera in Concert, from mid-2000 to early 2001. The tour visited North America, Europe, South America, and Japan.[44][45] Billboard in 2000 recognized Aguilera as the Top Female Pop Act of the Year.[46] Despite the successes, Aguilera was displeased with the music and image her manager Steve Kurtz had aligned her to, feeling unable to control her own image.[47] In October 2000, she filed a breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit against Kurtz for improper, undue and inappropriate influence over her professional activities. After terminating Kurtz's services, RCA hired Irving Azoff as Aguilera's new manager.[48]

Aguilera took her first steps in artistic control with a cover of Labelle's "Lady Marmalade" (1974) with Pink, Mýa, and Lil' Kim for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack.[21] RCA executives initially opposed to Aguilera recording "Lady Marmalade" because it was "too urban", but Aguilera ultimately managed to record the song of her own accord.[47] The collaboration topped the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks based on airplay alone, becoming the first airplay-only track in history to remain on the chart's top spot for more than one week.[49][50] It won Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards.[51] In mid-2001, Warlock Records released Just Be Free, a compilation of demo tracks Aguilera recorded in 1994 and 1995, when she was looking forward to an album release after the end of The Mickey Mouse Club. Aguilera filed a suit against Warlock Records and the album's producers to stop the release.[52] The two parties came to a confidential settlement to release the album, in which Aguilera lent out her name, likeness, and image for an unspecified amount of damages.[53]

2002–2003: Stripped

Aguilera performing on The Stripped Tour in 2003

While working on her fourth studio album, Aguilera leaned toward a new artistic direction that she felt had more musical and lyrical depth.[54] She named the album Stripped and explained that the title represented "a new beginning, a re-introduction of [herself] as a new artist in a way".[55] Aguilera served as the album's executive producer and co-wrote most of the songs.[56][57] To present her new persona, Aguilera released "Dirrty" as the lead single from the album in September 2002.[58] Its accompanying music video generated controversy for depicting overtly sexual fetishes.[59] Aguilera's new image presented in the video was widely criticized by the public that it began to overshadow her music.[60][61][62] She defended her new image: "I'm in the power position, in complete command of everything and everybody around me. To be totally balls-out like that is, for me, the measure of a true artist."[62]

Stripped was released in October 2002.[63] The album incorporated various genres from R&B and flamenco to rock, and lyrically revolves around the theme of self-esteem while also discussing sex and gender equality.[57][64] It received mixed reviews from music critics, who viewed the employment of various musical styles incoherent, but praised Aguilera's vocals.[63][64] The album peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 and has sold over 4.3 million copies in the US as of 2014.[65] In the UK, the album has sold two million copies as of 2017 and was the second highest-selling album by an American female artist during the 2000s decade, behind Norah Jones with Come Away with Me.[66][67] By 2006, Stripped had sold over 12 million copies worldwide.[68] The second single from the album, the ballad "Beautiful", received universal acclaim for its empowering lyrics about embracing inner beauty, and became an anthem for the LGBT community.[69][70] It was the album's best-charting single, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100.[38] The song won Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards in 2004.[71]

Stripped was followed by three other singles: "Fighter", "Can't Hold Us Down", and "The Voice Within", all of which were released in 2003 and entered the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100.[38] During promotion of Stripped, Aguilera cultivated a new image by adopting the alter ego Xtina, dyeing her hair black, and debuting several tattoos and piercings.[72][73] She co-headlined the Justified and Stripped Tour alongside Justin Timberlake from June to September 2003 in support of Stripped and Timberlake's album Justified (2002), before embarking on her solo Stripped Tour until December.[74][75] Aguilera attended the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards in August, where she and Britney Spears kissed Madonna during their performance of "Like a Virgin" and "Hollywood", which received considerable media attention.[76] She was the host of the 2003 MTV Europe Music Awards, where she won Best Female award, in November.[77] Billboard announced Aguilera as the Top Female Pop Act of 2003.[78]

2004–2009: Marriage, Back to Basics, and first child

Aguilera performing at the Sanremo Music Festival in 2006

In 2004, Aguilera recorded a revised version of Rose Royce's "Car Wash" (1976) with Missy Elliott for the animated film Shark Tale, in which she was a voice actress,[79] and contributed vocals to Nelly's single "Tilt Ya Head Back".[80] She was a featured artist on Herbie Hancock's 2005 cover of Leon Russell's "A Song for You" (1970), which was nominated for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards in February 2006.[81] During this time, Aguilera started working on her follow-up studio album and embraced a new image inspired by figures of the Classic Hollywood era such as Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, and Mary Pickford, debuting blonde curly hair and retro-styled makeup.[82][83]

Aguilera became engaged to marketing executive Jordan Bratman, who had dated her since 2003, in February 2005.[84] They married on November 19, 2005, at an estate in Napa County, California.[85] Aguilera released the lead single, "Ain't No Other Man", from her fifth studio album, Back to Basics, in June 2006.[86] The song, like the majority of the album, was inspired by Aguilera's marriage and incorporates elements of early 20th-century soul, blues, and jazz.[87][88] It reached number six on the Billboard Hot 100 and has sold 1.7 million digital copies in the US as of 2014.[38][65] Its music video saw Aguilera debuting her new alter ego, Baby Jane, inspired by the thriller film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).[86]

Back to Basics was released in August 2006. Aguilera described the record, a double album, as a "throwback" to jazz, blues, and soul music of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s that incorporates "a modern twist."[89] She was much inspired by works of such classic blues and soul singers as Otis Redding, Millie Jackson, and Nina Simone during the recording sessions.[90] Back to Basics received generally positive reviews from critics, who commented that the retro-oriented production complements Aguilera's vocals.[91] It debuted atop the Billboard 200 and has sold 1.7 million copies in the US.[65] At the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in February 2007, Aguilera won Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Ain't No Other Man" and performed "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" as a tribute to the late James Brown.[92] Back to Basics was succeeded by two international top-ten singles: "Hurt" and "Candyman". Two other singles, "Slow Down Baby" and "Oh Mother", were released exclusively in Australia[93] and Europe,[94] respectively. In support of Back to Basics, Aguilera embarked on the Back to Basics Tour, which ran from November 2006 to October 2008.[95][96][97] With US$48.1 million grossed, the tour was the highest-grossing solo female tour of 2007.[98]

In January 2008, Aguilera gave birth to her child with Bratman, a son.[99] Later that year, she appeared in the Martin Scorsese documentary Shine a Light chronicling a two-day Rolling Stones concert in New York City's Beacon Theatre, in which Aguilera performs "Live with Me" alongside the band's lead vocalist Mick Jagger.[100] In commemoration of a decade-long career in the music industry, Aguilera released a greatest hits album titled Keeps Gettin' Better: A Decade of Hits exclusively through Target in November 2008, in the US.[101] In addition to previous singles, it includes four original electropop-oriented songs, two of which are remade versions of two previous singles.[102][103] Aguilera commented that the newly recorded tracks' "futurisic, robotic sound" served as a preview for her follow-up studio album.[104] Keeps Gettin' Better peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200, and its titular single "Keeps Gettin' Better" charted at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.[38] Billboard in 2009 recognized Aguilera as the 20th most successful artist of the 2000s.[105]

2010–2011: Bionic, Burlesque, and The Voice

Aguilera at a Montblanc event in 2010

Aguilera began working on her sixth studio album during her pregnancy when she frequently listened to electronic music.[106] The lead single from the album, "Not Myself Tonight", was released in March 2010.[107] Heavily influenced by electronic genres, the song signaled Aguilera's musical experiments on her forthcoming album.[108] It peaked at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100.[38] The album, titled Bionic, was released in June 2010. Categorized as a R&B-flavored futurepop album by critics,[109][110] Bionic lyrically revolves around sexual themes while also discussing feminism.[111] Critical reaction to the album was mixed; reviewers commended Aguilera's experimentation with new styles, but found it forced and unnatural.[112][113][114] The album peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and has sold 332,000 copies in the US as of 2019.[115] The album spawned one other international single, "You Lost Me". Two other singles from the album, "Woohoo" featuring rapper Nicki Minaj and "I Hate Boys", were released in the US and Europe,[116][117] and Australia, respectively.[118]

Aguilera starred alongside Cher in the musical film Burlesque.[119] Written and directed by Steve Antin, the film was released in theaters in November 2010.[120] Aguilera played Ali Rose, who quits her bar service job and moves to Los Angeles, where she aspires to be a performer in a burlesque club owned by Tess Scali (Cher). Burlesque grossed US$90 million in the box office[121] and received mixed reviews from critics, who found it clichéd but praised Aguilera's acting.[122] The film received a nomination for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the 68th Golden Globe Awards.[123] Aguilera recorded eight tracks for the film's ten-track accompanying soundtrack, and Cher performed the other two.[124] The soundtrack reached number 18 on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold by the RIAA.[36][38]

At Super Bowl XLV in February 2011, Aguilera omitted a few lines while performing the US national anthem.[125] She apologized for the incident, saying: "I got so caught up in the moment of the song that I lost my place."[126] At the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards, she performed alongside Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride, Yolanda Adams, and Florence Welch in a segment that paid tribute to soul singer Aretha Franklin.[127] Aguilera finalized her divorce from Jordan Bratman, from whom she had been separated since September 2010, on April 15, 2011.[128] She concurrently started dating Matthew Rutler, an assistant on the set of Burlesque.[129] From April 2011 to December 2012, Aguilera served as a coach on the first three seasons of the television competition series The Voice.[130] During the first season, Aguilera was featured on Maroon 5's single "Moves like Jagger" upon the invitation of the group's lead vocalist and Aguilera's fellow The Voice coach Adam Levine. The single peaked atop the Billboard Hot 100 and has sold seven million digital copies worldwide.[131][132]

2012–2017: Lotus, second child, and television projects

Christina during a performance in 2014

Upon the third season of The Voice in September 2012, Aguilera released "Your Body" as the lead single from her seventh studio album.[133] The single charted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 34.[134] The album, titled Lotus, followed in November 2012. Aguilera described the record as a "rebirth" of herself after the personal struggles she overcame.[72] Contemporary reviewers found the album generic and conventional, as opposed to Aguilera's previous experimental ventures.[135][136] Lotus peaked at number seven on the Billboard 200 and has sold 303,000 copies in the US as of 2019.[115] The album was supported by another single, "Just a Fool", featuring Aguilera's fellow The Voice coach Blake Shelton.[137] In December 2012, Aguilera was replaced by Shakira for the fourth season of The Voice.[138] She returned for the fifth season in September 2013.[139]

In 2013, Aguilera scored three international top-ten singles. She was featured on rapper Pitbull's "Feel This Moment", which peaked at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified platinum by the RIAA.[36][38] She subsequently appeared on Mexican singer Alejandro Fernández's cover of Miguel Gallardo's "Hoy Tengo Ganas de Ti" (1976), which earned a diamond certification in Mexico.[140] Aguilera collaborated with A Great Big World on the ballad "Say Something", which earned a six-time platinum certification from the RIAA[36] and won Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards.[141] Aguilera temporarily withdrew from The Voice for the sixth and seventh seasons, citing her desire to devote her time to her family. She was respectively replaced by Shakira and Gwen Stefani during the two seasons.[142][143] After her engagement to Matthew Rutler in February 2014 and the birth of their daughter in August,[144] she returned for the eighth season in October.[145] Aguilera's last season on The Voice was the tenth, which she won with her contestant Alisan Porter in May 2016.[146]

Aguilera played a recurring role of Jade St. John, a pop singer who tries to venture out to country music, on the third season of ABC's musical drama series Nashville in April 2015.[147] Two promotional singles were released in order to support her appearance: "The Real Thing" and "Shotgun".[148][149] She and her partner Rutler served as executive producers for a music-based game show, Tracks, which aired on Spike TV in March 2016.[150] Aguilera recorded a song titled "Change", which she dedicated to the victims of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting as well as Christina Grimmie, who was fatally shot in Orlando the day before the nightclub shooting. The proceeds were donated to the National Compassion Fund to benefit the victims' families.[151] Her other works included recording a disco song titled "Telepathy" featuring Nile Rodgers for the soundtrack of Netflix original series The Get Down (2016),[152] being a voice actress for The Emoji Movie (2017),[153] and starring in the romantic science fiction film Zoe (filmed in 2017, released in 2018).[154] In November 2017, Aguilera performed a medley of The Bodyguard songs during the American Music Awards in honor to celebrate Whitney Houston.[155]

2018–present: Liberation and The Xperience

Aguilera performing on her Liberation Tour at the Pepsi Center, October 2018

Aguilera started working on her new album in the summer of 2015.[156][157] Its release was preceded by two singles: "Accelerate" featuring Ty Dolla Sign and 2 Chainz and "Fall in Line" featuring Demi Lovato.[158][159] The album, titled Liberation, was released on June 15, 2018 to favorable reviews.[160][161][162] Aguilera heavily incorporated R&B and hip hop on the album to represent her desire for freedom from what she described as the "churning hamster wheel" that was The Voice.[163] Liberation debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 chart, becoming Aguilera's seventh US top-ten album.[164] At the 61st Annual Grammy Awards, "Fall in Line" was nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, and the album track "Like I Do", which featured GoldLink was nominated for Best Rap/Sung Performance.[165]

To promote Liberation, Aguilera embarked on a US tour, the Liberation Tour, which ran from September to November 2018,[166] and a European tour, The X Tour, which ran from July to December 2019.[167] She also headlined The Xperience, a 25-date concert residency at the Zappos Theater in Las Vegas beginning in May and concluding in March 2020.[168] In October 2019, Aguilera released the soul and blues-inspired song "Haunted Heart" from the soundtrack of the computer-animated Addams Family film,[169][170][171] and a month later "Fall on Me"—her second collaboration with A Great Big World—was premiered.[172] On March 6, 2020, Aguilera released "Loyal Brave True" as a promotional single from the live action remake of Mulan;[173] Rolling Stone considered it Oscar-worthy.[174] She released a re-recording of "Reflection" on August 28.[175][176]

Artistry

Voice

Aguilera is a soprano,[177][178][179] possessing a four-octave vocal range spanning from C3 to C♯7.[180][181] Since the start of her career, Aguilera's voice has been compared to that of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.[182] David Browne writing for The New York Times noted that Aguilera's vocal performance was highly influenced by Carey and Houston, sharing that "Aguilera has been one of the foremost practitioners of the overpowering, Category 5 vocal style known as melisma", and "Ms. Carey, Ms. Houston and Ms. Aguilera, to name its three main champions, are most associated with the period from the late '80s through the late '90s".[182] A journal by Ann Powers for the Los Angeles Times said there are influences of Barbra Streisand, Gladys Knight and Aretha Franklin on Aguilera's vocal style, opining that the "Aguilera's Streisand-esque tendencies" "[help Aguilera] figure out how to become the 'great singer' she's been dubbed since she released her first single, the wise-beyond-its-years 'Genie in a Bottle', at 18".[183] Sasha Frere-Jones wrote in The New Yorker, "Aguilera doesn't need to reincarnate Sarah Vaughan to be a serious singer. She already is one, in the tradition of nineteen-nineties pop and R&B, skillfully deploying melisma for razzle-dazzle".[184] In 2003, Aguilera was placed fifth on MTV's "Best Voices in Music Ever" list,[185] while ranking atop both COVE and Latina magazine's best Pop and Latina vocalist of all time in 2004 and 2013, respectively.[186][187] In a review for Liberation, Jon Pareles of The New York Times commented on Aguilera's vocal versatility: "Nothing less than high drama suits Christina Aguilera's voice. She can be brassy, tearful, sultry, gritty, breathy, sweet or furious. She can belt and she can tease; she can aim a note as directly as a missile or turn its trajectory into an aerobatic spiral of leaping, quivering, scalloping melismas. Her voice is not an instrument for making modest statements; it's about peaks of self-affirmation, indescribable sensual pleasures, steely counterattacks and abysses of sorrow".[188]

Aguilera has, however, been criticized for her excessive use of melisma and oversinging on songs and in concerts.[189][190][191][192] John Eskow of The Huffington Post named Aguilera a main proponent for "oversouling", described as the "gratuitous and confected melisma".[193] Lucy Davies, a writer for BBC Music, opined that although Aguilera had "a stunning voice", she "could be more varied, simply by cutting out some of the 'y-e-e-eeeh, woah yeh's'".[194] Longtime producer Linda Perry, who wrote the song "Beautiful", revealed about the recording sessions with Aguilera, "I tried to keep it straight. I told her to get rid of the finger waves. Every time she'd start going into 'hoo-ha', I'd stop the tape. I'm like, 'You're doing it again'". Perry ended up using the song's first take adding, "She had a hard time accepting that as the final track. She's a perfectionist. She knows her voice really well, and she knows what's going on. She can hear things that nobody else would catch."[195] An editor from Entertainment Weekly, Chris Willman, stated that the oversinging on Aguilera's albums was inspired by Carey, writing that "the Mariah venerators don't get away with it so easily. Aguilera, for one thing, has a slightly nasal tone that really only becomes obvious when she's overselling a song".[190]

Influences

Aguilera cites Etta James (pictured) as her main influence.

Aguilera has credited blues singer Etta James as her main influence and inspiration, elaborating, "Etta is my all-time favorite singer. I've said it for the last seven years – since I had my first debut record out – in every interview".[196] Following James' death in 2012, Aguilera was asked to perform "At Last" at James' funeral.[197] Prior to the performance, Aguilera revealed, "There's a line in this song that says 'I found a dream that I could speak to.' And for me that dream, all my life, has been Etta James".[198] Other classic artists, including Billie Holiday, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, and Ella Fitzgerald, also influenced Aguilera; her fifth studio album Back to Basics, which was inspired by those artists' vintage jazz, blues and soul music records.[199][200][201]

In the 1999 interview with The Insider, Aguilera named Madonna, Whitney Houston, and Mariah Carey as her primary influences, stating that she attempted to combine Madonna's artistry with Houston's and Carey's vocal ability.[202] Aguilera performed many of Houston's songs in her early years at talent shows,[16] while crediting Carey's "Vision of Love" (1990) as the biggest influence on her vocal style.[203] In 2000, Aguilera stated that when she first heard Carey sing on the radio, she "ran downstairs [telling her mother that she had just] found the greatest person in the world".[204] Although considering Madonna as a "huge inspiration", Aguilera explained that she didn't discover her catalog until she was older.[205]

Producer Ron Harris revealed that during recording sessions for her debut album, Aguilera would constantly listen to Brandy's music, studying and trying to replicate her adlibs.[206] Aguilera points out the musical film The Sound of Music and its lead actress, Julie Andrews, as her first inspiration for singing and performing.[207] At the age of six, the film helped her cope with her violent childhood.[18] Aguilera's image was inspired by the "Golden age of Hollywood" actresses including Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Carole Lombard, Greta Garbo, and Veronica Lake, especially during the promotion of Back to Basics.[208] Aguilera was also inspired by her Burlesque co-star Cher, who "did everything before anyone else did it."[209]

Musical style and themes

Aguilera performing during her Back to Basics Tour in 2006

Aguilera frequently blends elements of pop, R&B, dance-pop, and soul music into her projects,[210][211][212] and her records typically include a combination of ballads and uptempo tracks.[213] Christina Aguilera (1999) prominently displayed teen pop and dance-pop music,[214] while Mi Reflejo (2000) takes inspiration from Latin music.[215] Her first Christmas album, My Kind of Christmas, combines covers of Christmas standards and several original dance-pop tracks.[216] Aiming for musical diversity and artistic growth, Aguilera worked with R&B, rock, hip hop, and Latin music for Stripped (2002).[47][217] David Browne from Entertainment Weekly credited the release with distancing Aguilera from her pop contemporaries.[217] Aguilera leaned towards R&B, blues, jazz, and soul on Back to Basics (2006).[89][218][219]

In contrast, Bionic (2010) sees significant use from futuristic electronic music, described as an electropop album.[220][221][222] The soundtrack for her 2010 feature film Burlesque (2010) was influenced by Cabaret, and featured several established songs that were redone as dance numbers in a fashion similar to Moulin Rouge! (2001).[223] Aguilera partnered with mainstream producers including Shellback and Max Martin during production of Lotus (2012); when discussing her interactions with the latter, she commented that "He's known about me but we haven't crossed paths," adding "Those records were the kind I wanted to stray apart from. If you look at what I did in the past (after my debut), I always try to do things that will challenge me and challenge the listener, too."[224]

Aguilera stated that she feels a sense of responsibility to reference portions of her personal life so that "people that can relate might not feel as alone in the circumstance." Many of her works consequently discuss love; she has also co-written two tracks which dealt with the domestic abuse throughout her childhood.[225] Aguilera has frequently mentioned feminism in her music; she has expressed her belief that sexuality is "very empowering", and has commented that "If I want to be sexual, it's for my own appreciation and enjoyment! That's why I like to talk about the fact that sometimes I am attracted to women. I appreciate their femininity and beauty."[226] She has alluded to her physical attractions to women in other interviews as well.[227][228] Her "Can't Hold Us Down" from Stripped denounces gender-related double standards, in which men are applauded for their sexual behaviors, while women who behave in a similar fashion are disdained.[229] The main theme of Bionic was also about woman empowerment; Hermione Hoby from The Guardian opined that "she incites more of a sisterly spirit of collaboration, including riot grrrl feminists Le Tigre. Aguilera's not shy of the odd feministic declaration herself."[177] In regards to production, Aguilera has often verbalized her preference of working with more "obscure" collaborators, and noted that she is not necessarily inclined to contact "the No.1 chart-toppers in music" because of their popular demand.[230] The New York Times' Kelefa Sanneh described her decision to work with DJ Premier on Back to Basics as "a decision to snub some of the big-name producers on whom pop stars often rely."[231]

Image

Aguilera at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards wearing a "classic movie-star" inspired outfit

Aguilera has been called a pop icon[232] and early in her career, she was often compared to Britney Spears.[233][234] Matthew Horton from Virgin Media suggested that Aguilera was a more impressive performer than Spears.[233] Aguilera has also been labeled a "diva" for her actions and persona with Bustle writer James Tison noting that "one of her best diva qualities is her willingness to embrace her own sexuality".[235] He added that from day one "she was like, 'No, I like sex, I'm sexual, let's talk open and honestly about sex'".[235]

In 2013, Aguilera was elected as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time.[236] Aguilera has also been well known to have reinvented her image on numerous occasions throughout her career with Joey Guerra, writer for the Houston Chronicle, noting that "while her former teen-queen counterparts have languished as tabloid fodder, Aguilera has emerged as the one true heir to the pop-queen throne".[237] In the late 1990s, her then-manager Steve Kurtz marketed her as a bubblegum pop entertainer to capitalize on the genre's financial lure,[54] which earned her recognition as a teen idol.[238] Aguilera introduced her alter ego "Xtina" during 2002 and 2003, which presented an increasingly provocative persona.[239][240] During this time, she dyed her hair black, debuted several piercings, and participated in several nude pictorials for publications.[72]

Aguilera has also been cited as a sex symbol.[184][241] A 2003 issue of Maxim magazine that she covered became its best-selling issue;[242] Aguilera was named "Sexiest Woman of the Year" by its subscribers later that year,[243] and also earned the magazine its best-selling issue after posing on the cover that year.[244] In 2004, Aguilera embraced a more "mature" image with retro-styled hair and makeup, which was inspired by classic movie stars including Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, and Mary Pickford.[83] This reinvention was named "Baby Jane" in 2006, an alter ego which was taken from the 1962 film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.[245] Aguilera received favorable media attention after a significant weight loss in 2013.[246][247] In 2018, Aguilera appeared bare-faced without makeup and retouching on the cover of Paper magazine and received widespread praise.[248][249]

Aguilera is recognized as a gay icon,[250][251] she was the first honoree on The Abbey's Gay Walk of Fame for her contributions to the LGBT community.[252] Her song "Beautiful" is regarded as an anthem among the gay community with The Advocate's Larry Flick stating the release of the song was "one of the most powerful moments of queer activism in 2003".[253] The music video for the song earned Aguilera a GLAAD Media Award for its positive portrayal of the LGBT community.[254] In 2019, the Human Rights Campaign honored Aguilera with its "Ally for Equality" award.[255] She was recognized as an "LGBTQ icon" who used her platform to share a message of hope and inspiration.[256]

Fashion has also been a part of Aguilera's music career and image.[257] She has been cited as a fashion icon,[258][259] and has frequently worn clothes designed by Roberto Cavalli, John Galliano, Marc Jacobs, and Alexander McQueen.[260][261] Aguilera's costumes from Burlesque were featured in the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising's Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition.[262] Wax figures of Aguilera are located at Madame Tussauds wax museums in London and New York City.[263][264]

Legacy

Aguilera's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which she received in 2010

Throughout her career, Aguilera has earned earned numerous awards and accolades, including five Grammy Awards.[265] As of 2018, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), lists that Aguilera has sold over 75 million albums and singles worldwide making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time.[266][267][6] In 2010, Aguilera was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[268] In 2012, she was honored as the "Voice of a Generation" by the ALMA Awards[269] and has been referred to as a "Princess of Pop".[270][271][272]

Aguilera has also accumulated several recognitions. Rolling Stone and Consequence of Sound both named her as one of the greatest vocalists of all time,[8][273] as well as one of the greatests artists of Latin origin in history by Latina.[274] In addition, she was placed as one of the most important women in the phonographic industry The Independent.[275][276] Billboard magazine have also developed articles analyzing her influence on the pop music scene.[277][278] In October 2012, Aguilera's costumes and video collection was included on the "Women Who Rock" exhibition by the National Museum of Women in the Arts.[279] That same year, VH1 named Aguilera the eighth greatest woman in the music industry.[280]

Various artists have cited Aguilera as an inspiration,[9] including Ariana Grande,[281] Sabrina Carpenter,[282] Demi Lovato,[283] Tinashe,[284] Lady Gaga,[285] Sam Smith,[286] Lauren Jauregui,[287] Meghan Trainor,[288] Selena Gomez,[289] and Miley Cyrus.[290] Her work has also inspired some athletes, including American figure skater Johnny Weir,[291] ice dancers Zachary Donohue and Madison Hubbell,[292][293] and American swimmer Dana Vollmer.[294] Celine Dion has also commented that, "Without a doubt, [Aguilera]'s one of the most talented artists the world has ever seen and heard, and [will] continue to amaze us for many years to come."[295]

Aguilera's use of sexual imagery has helped catalyze public discourse on sexuality and feminism. Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, co-founder of The Vagenda, opined that the provocative dance routines in Aguilera's music videos are "empowering".[296] In 2012, Jon Caramanica of The New York Times commented that Aguilera "will be remembered for her glamour, her scandalous take on femme-pop and her Brobdingnagian voice [...] and as the person who almost single-handedly reshaped music-competition reality programming".[297] She was considered as the 14th greatest woman of the music video era by VH1.[298] In 2008, Rolling Stone wrote that "[Aguilera] has had the finesse and power of a blues queen ever since she was a child star".[299]

In 2019, Aguilera received the Disney Legends Award for "her remarkable contributions to the Disney legacy" and was called "one of the preeminent musical performers of our generation".[300] Starting out on the Mickey Mouse Club during the early '90s as a child star, Genius writer Eddie Fu stated that "Aguilera's impact has been apparent" in the sense of many Disney young child stars such as Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Sabrina Carpenter have followed.[301] He went on to say that "this generation transitioned from child acting careers to teen pop before finding their own voices a few albums later".[301] Vulture writer, Jordan Crucchiola, added that from Aguilera's legacy "instead of there being just a few kids making it after Disney, former child stars are now ubiquitous in pop culture".[302] Carpenter spoke to Teen Vogue saying that after listening to Aguilera, she began to see "songs as a part of what [she] could do to showcase and develop [her] own voice".[303] Lovato has also stated that she grew up listening to Aguilera calling her voice an influence.[304]

Other ventures

Philanthropy

In 2000, Aguilera supported a program called Come on Over and Do Something, which aimed to "encourage kids to get involved in their communities and make a difference."[305] A year later, she signed a letter from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to the South Korean government requesting that the country stop its alleged killing of dogs for food.[306] In 2010, Aguilera auctioned tickets for her planned tour for Christie's A Bid to Save the Earth, which benefited the non-profit environmental groups Conservation International, Oceana, Natural Resources Defense Council, and The Central Park Conservancy.[307] Aguilera contributed US$200,000 to the Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh in December 2003,[308] and was part of the Lifetime Television's "End violence against women" campaign.[309]

In 2005, Aguilera contributed "Beautiful" to the compilation album Love Rocks, which proceeds benefited the Human Rights Campaign.[310] Aguilera participated in the AIDS Project Los Angeles' Artists Against AIDS "What's Going On?" cover project, and became the face for MAC Cosmetics and spokesperson for MAC AIDS Fund in 2004. Singer Elton John featured Aguilera in his charity book 4 Inches, which benefitted the Elton John AIDS Foundation.[311]

Aguilera and David Novak were honored with the George McGovern Leadership Award in October 2012 for their contributions to the United Nations World Hunger Relief effort, while Hillary Clinton (center) was given a special tribute.

In the run-up to the 2004 United States presidential election, Aguilera was featured on billboards for the "Only You Can Silence Yourself" online voter registration drive run by the nonpartisan, non-profit campaign "Declare Yourself". In these political advertisements, shot by David LaChapelle, Aguilera was shown with her mouth sewn shut to symbolize the effects of not voting.[312] In late 2007, Aguilera became the spokesperson for "Rock the Vote", through which she encouraged young people to vote in the 2008 presidential election.[313] In 2005, Aguilera donated her wedding gifts to American charities in support of Hurricane Katrina victims,[314] and performed at "Unite of the Stars" concert for Unite Against Hunger in Johannesburg, South Africa and for the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund at the Coca-Cola Dome.[315]

In 2008, Aguilera headlined London's Africa Rising charity concert at the Royal Albert Hall, which raised awareness for finding substantial issues facing the continent.[316] That year, Aguilera appeared on the Turkish version of Deal or No Deal, Var mısın? Yok musun?, and donated proceeds to a charity program for orphans.[317] In 2009, Aguilera became the global spokesperson for World Hunger Relief;[318] she and Bratman traveled to Guatemala with the World Food Programme to bring awareness to issues including its high malnutrition rate, and met with local families and beneficiaries of WFP's nutrition programs.[319] Aguilera has helped raise over $148 million for WFP and other hunger relief agencies in 45 countries.[320]

In response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Aguilera donated a signed Chrysler 300 which was auctioned for relief efforts.[321] She additionally appeared on the Hope for Haiti telethon that January, where donations directly benefited Oxfam America, Partners In Health, Red Cross and UNICEF.[322] She was featured on a public service announcement alongside former boxer Muhammad Ali to raise funds for the World Food Programme's efforts to bring food to survivors of the earthquake.[323] Aguilera was nominated for a VH1 Do Something Award for her work with the organization and her efforts in response to the earthquake.[324] In 2010, Aguilera was appointed as the UN ambassador of the World Food Programme.[325] Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Aguilera performed "Beautiful" to open the Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together benefit telethon; all proceeds went to the American Red Cross.[326] That year, Aguilera and David Novak received the George McGovern Leadership Award.[327] The following year, Aguilera was honored with the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year Award.[328]

Products and endorsements

In 2000, Aguilera was the face for make-up line Fetish, where she worked in choosing colors and packaging for the line.[329] That same year, an interactive CD-ROM was produced called Christina Aguilera: Follow Your Dreams and released by Simon & Schuster Interactive which features games and quizzes, plus Aguilera herself talking about accomplishing her goals.[330] Throughout her career, Aguilera has endorsed several brands, including Sears, Levi's,[331] Skechers,[332] Mercedes-Benz,[333] Versace,[334] Virgin Mobile,[335] Orange UK, Oreo,[336] Sony Ericsson,[337] and soft drink giants Coca-Cola[338] and Pepsi, in 2001 and 2006, respectively.[339] In 2004, Aguilera earned £200,000 (about $300,000) for opening the summer sale at London's Harrods store[340] and appeared in an advertisement for MAC Cosmetics' Viva Glam V campaign.[341] Following the birth of her son in 2008, she was reportedly paid $1.5 million by People for her baby pictures, which became the ninth most expensive celebrity baby photographs ever taken.[342] In 2008, jewelry designer Stephen Webster and friend of Aguilera released "Shattered", a collection of sterling silver pieces, through Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. Aguilera, who inspired the collection, was featured as a Hitchcock heroine.[343] They reprised their work together for Webster's 2009 spring line.[344] In 2011, Aguilera attended São Paulo Fashion Week to premiere her new line of clothing for Brazilian department store C&A, which launched in April of that year.[345]

Aguilera was named the number one awarded celebrity brand, with 13 awards won globally, in 2017.[346] Her first fragrance, Xpose, was released in Europe in late 2004 and sold relatively well.[347][348] Through Procter & Gamble, Aguilera released her signature fragrance, Simply Christina, in 2007.[349] During the Christmas period of 2007, the fragrance became the number one perfume in the United Kingdom,[350] and later in 2009 it was the country's fourth best selling perfume.[351] It won as the people's choice for favorite celebrity fragrance at the annual UK Fifi Awards 2008.[352] Aguilera released her third fragrance, Inspire, accompanied with a body care collection, in September 2008.[353] It was her first fragrance released outside of Europe.[354] Her worldwide ad campaign included a television ad shot by David LaChapelle and was released in the United States in Macy's department stores. The release coincided with Macy's 150th anniversary which featured Aguilera in commemorative photos.[355] She released her fourth fragrance, By Night, in October 2009,[356] which became the third best selling fragrance in the United Kingdom in 2009.[351] The range has been further augmented yearly by new releases.[357][358][359][360]

Discography

Filmography

Tours and residencies

See also

References

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Sources

Further reading

External links