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Music Review: ‘Stripped’ on par with Carey

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by Rima Thompson
Staff Writer

When Christina Aguilera first appeared on the pop scene three years ago, many critics referred to her as “the new Mariah Carey.” While Aguilera does have an extraordinary range, she is nowhere near being another Whitney Houston, let alone another Mariah Carey.

That said, Aguilera’s latest album, “Stripped,” is a breath of fresh air not only from her self-titled debut album, but is on par to that of an album that would be released by Houston or Carey.

Some music buyers might be turned away from buying the album due to Aguilera’s sexually suggestive album cover and raunchy music video for the album’s first single “Dirrty,” but they should not. In fact “Stripped” is quite a mature album from the 21- year- old pop tart.

The album is an astonishingly 78 minutes long, and not only did Aguilera write 14 of the albums 20 tracks, she is also credited with producing “Dirrty,” the only problem with the album.

There is a lack of a clear melody, and the many vocal layers make the song seem cluttered. Also, Redman, of the rap group Wu Tang Clan, serves no real purpose as a guest vocalist in the song.

“Beautiful” will perhaps end up being Aguilera’s signature ballad as “Hero” was to Carey and “I Will Always Love You” to Houston.

While the lyrics in “Beautiful” tend to be too cliché, Aguilera is able to deliver a somber yet powerful ballad. She tones her over-the-top singing down a few notches and delivers a candid, honest performance. Radio programmers will eat this song up.

“I’m OK” is one of the many songs written by Aguilera, where she talks about the physical abuse she and her mother endured from her father.

This is possibly Aguilera’s most gut wrenching song on the entire album, featuring simple yet profound lyrics such as, “It hurt me to see the pain across my mother’s face every time my father’s fist would put her in her place.”

In “The Voice Within” and “Keep on Singing My Song,” it seems like Aguilera was taking a page out of Carey’s lyrics book. Both songs sound like a Carey-written track, especially “Keep on Singing My Song,” where Aguilera says “I believe they can take anything from me but they can’t succeed in taking my inner peace from me. They can say all they wanna say about me.”

Carey fans might notice those lyrics sound almost identical to lyrics in Carey’s “Can’t Take That Away (Mariah’s Theme).”

In “Loving Me 4 Me” Aguilera manages to tone down the vocal gymnastics long enough to deliver a very neo-soul and adult contemporary sounding track.

With “Infatuation” and “Make Over,” Aguilera’s attempt at trying to incorporate a Latin flavored vibe in her music, as she tried with her Spanish album but failed miserably, has finally paid off.

“Walk Away” and “Impossible” are both jazzy, songs tinged with gospel and soul, and the latter is reminiscent of an Alicia Keys-type song, perhaps because the track was produced by none other than Keys herself.

Other tracks on the album include “Can’t Hold Us Down” which guest stars Lil Kim, “Stripped Pt. 1,” “Fighter,” Infatuation (interlude),” “Loving Me For Me (interlude),” “Underappreciated,” “Soar,” “Get Mine,” “Get Yours” and “Stripped Pt. 2.”

Another great thing worth noting about the album is the arrangement of the songs. With the exception of Dirrty, all the songs seem to thematically flow well with each other.

For those who hoped Aguilera would be hit with the sophomore jinx, and fail miserably with this album, this time unfortunately it looks like she has a smash hit on her hands. This is an album for music lovers in general.

Music buyers should pay no attention to the lack of clothes Aguilera might wear – or not wear – because musically speaking, she has a raw talent that few possess these days, and it is displayed on this album.

“Stripped” is perhaps one of the best albums to be released so far this year, and if Aguilera keeps releasing quality material like this, she might be around until she is ready to retire.

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