by Drew Boehmker/@IfUSeekDrew
Inspired by this recent BuzzFeed article about 26 albums turning 10 this year that will make you feel ancient, I started thinking about how music is perhaps one of our most enduring forms of media—I mean come on, who doesn’t love a well-timed throwback? But as I scrolled through that BuzzFeed article, something occurred to me: back in the day, I used to like (and even love) quite a few of these albums, but had completely forgotten about most of them in light of today’s new release-obsessed and Spotify-fueled music environment.
With that in mind, I started thinking about all of those albums we used to listen to back in middle and high school—the ones that were once the soundtracks to the lives of our teenage selves but have been forgotten somewhere along the way. And it was then that I realized the process of re-discovering those old albums could make a great blog series for RPM.
So here I am, beginning a bi-weekly blog series dedicated to revisiting those albums from the past in the context of music today. Which of our old-school favorites still hold up as classics? Which are full of clunkers? With this blog series, I hope to not only take you on a trip down memory lane but also let you know which songs just might be worthy of pulling out of retirement to spice up your Spotify playlists in the process. So here we go …
The year was 2002. The reign of the pop princesses who had ruled the Billboard throne in the late ‘90s and early millennium was coming to an end—and so was their façade of innocence. Yet while Britney was busy being a slave for you and P!nk was getting the party started, it wasn’t until Christina Aguilera got Stripped that once-bubblegum pop music got a whole lot dirrtier.
Let’s be honest, our girl Christina hasn’t exactly had the best press for some time now. Following a so-so stint on The Voice, endless coverage of her back-and-forth figure, and some questionable career moves (though I do love me some Burlesque), among fans of pop music there’s a sentiment of Christina having become a joke of her former self (I’m looking at you, @Floptina_Legend). Still, there’s a reason pop music fans (myself included) fell in love with her in the first place all those years ago—and that’s why I decided this blog series would be a great time to revisit an album I have distinct memories of my seventh-grade self loving.
Stripped is Christina Aguilera’s 2002 follow-up to her smash debut album (admit it, you totally had that CD). With featured artists like Alicia Keys and A-list producers like Scott Storch (who Christina would later diss on her track “F.U.S.S.”—an acronym for “f*ck you, Scott Storch), Stripped is Xtina firing on all cylinders. Even more importantly, after re-listening to it more than twelve years after its release, Stripped still stands the test of time.
Within just two minutes of Stripped’s opening, it’s clear that Christina means business. On “Stripped Intro,” our girl Xtina goes in on the controversies surrounding her early 2000s self, cleverly incorporating a soundbyte from Carson Daly on Total Request Live to let listeners know that the purpose of this album is “to let Christina tell her side of the story.”
And tell that story she does over the course of twenty (!) tracks running over an hour long. The second track, “Can’t Hold Us Down,” is a feminist anthem featuring Lil’ Kim that still feels surprisingly relevant today in light of recent hashtags like #YesAllWomen. The fourth, “Fighter,” is the absolute standout on the album and remains one of the best songs she has released to date. Seriously, if you haven’t given “Fighter” a spin in a decade, go ahead and give it a listen—it’s still an amazing cardio jam when you need an extra boost of energy at the gym (in fact, I may have just added it as one of my PowerSongs on Nike+ after re-listening to it for this review).
Furthermore, there are definitely some tracks on Stripped that carry considerably more significance to someone listening to the album in their twentysomethings as opposed to a seventh-grader just looking for catchy songs with a good beat. “Get Mine, Get Yours” is a well-produced sexy romp I immediately put on my iPod after this re-listen. “I’m OK” is a song written by Aguilera about her abusive father that my middle-school self had dismissed as “boring” but I found to be incredibly powerful today.
Finally, the ballads that Xtina is so well-known for still sizzle after these years. While everyone will pretty much have “Beautiful” solidly lodged in the brains for the rest of our lives (thanks, Mean Girls), with this re-listen I actually found “The Voice Within” to be the more powerful ballad. Even on some of the weaker slow jams (“Infatuation,” “Underappreciated”), Christina’s vocals shine.
Overall, while the R&B-influenced production of Stripped feels very different from the electro and EDM-infused pop on the radio today, it is still worthy of a listen now whether you were an old-school Xtina fan or are just looking for something a little different to jam out to on your workday. It might not be a masterpiece, but Stripped is some pretty damn dirrty fun—and isn’t that the purpose of pop music after all is said and done, anyway?
Final Verdict (Classic or Clunker?): Classic
Essential Tracks to Check Out: “Fighter” (for putting on your gym mix), “Dirrty” (for a perfect party throwback), “Get Mine, Get Yours,” “The Voice Within”