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CHRISTINA AGUILERA - BACK TO BASICS - SONY/BMG
Record Rating: ***

CHRISTINA AGUILERA - BACK TO BASICS Her first album was a promising collection of catchy tunes easily lumped into the teen pop boom of 1999 since she was young and sang over savvy, skittering club beats. Those comparisons irked hell, angered Aguilera and she was determined to prove she was real on her second album Stripped. Thanks to hit songs like Dirrty, Beautiful and Can't Hold Us Down and her transformation to a sweaty, gyrating girl in skimpy underwear, by 2004 she was Billboardís Female Artist Of The Year. For her newest release, sheís gone back to wearing clothes again, listened to jazz records from the forties to help her rock and write, fought for artistic control with her record company, and wound up getting married between the recording sessions. This all sounds like the script for an MTV movie, but the end result ~ Back To Basics ~ not only works, itís a bewildering amalgam of sounds and attitudes that shouldn't fit together, but defy all odds and do. The record bubbles over with fun, as hooky pop songs like first single Ain't No Other Man rub shoulders with glitzy anthems like Candyman and swaggering old school blues redux like the Nina Simone channelling I Got Trouble. An ambitious double CD with twenty plus songs, forget that this isn't what anybody would have expected Aguilera to do; it's hard to imagine anybody else that would have the idea and the inclination to blend late night jazz with hip-hop and dance, and then dress it up with modern pop production. Itís enjoyable as it spins, but it doesn't add anything new to her cannon, since it's just really old music in new clothing. Out of the deluge of female pop albums youíll hear this year, this is one of the better ones in that lot.

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