Flashback Friday: A contemporary look at Christina Aguilera’s “Stripped”

Welcome to Artwolf Media’s newest segment: Flashback Fridays, where we will be taking a contemporary look at seminal albums from the past.

Article by  Kegan Gaspar.

Most human beings who live in our day and age have most likely come across at least one Christina Aguilera song in their lifetime. Reception to her work is sometimes mixed; people seem to either love or hate her. Aguilera will always be known for her soaring vocals and ever changing musical explorations. She has been accused of over-singing and praised for her unique voice. Regardless of how you feel about her music and her powerhouse vocals, no one can deny that she has solidified her name in and has left a mark on the entertainment history.

Amidst several successful and iconic albums, her 2002 album Stripped remains her most intriguing output to date. Aguilera caused a stir with the birth of her alter ego Xtina and the provocative video for the album’s lead single, “Dirrty”. Xtina was no longer playing the role of “pop princess” with her assless chaps and sexualised image. The video for “Beautiful” is perhaps one of the most iconic moments where the Queer community felt represented in the face of hate. The album was surrounded by a haze of controversy and praise. Many loved the album and Xtina’s exertion of agency over her career. Others were not convinced of Xtina’s authenticity. Despite the mixed feelings, the album blessed us with pop perfection in the form of songs like the feminist anthem “Can’t Hold Us Down” and the iconic “Fighter”, which remain both relevant and powerful almost fifteen years later.

Xtina showed us that it’s possible to move away from the expectations of others. And beyond the messages of self-love, of embracing one’s sexuality and of survival, Stripped remains relevant today because it is an extravaganza of rebellious spirit. Musically, the album caused headaches for its mixture of musical genres and styles. Many felt as though the songs on the albums did not form a cohesive whole because of the way the songs hop from one genre to another. However, this inability to pin the album down to a particular genre is part of its charm. Even in its arrangement, Stripped spits in the face a definitive label.

The album remains a celebration in the face of doubt and hate. We live in a society that is still so focused on labelling and control, that we sometimes need a reminder that it’s possible to strip away what is expected of us and to live in a way that feels authentic and real to us. The underappreciated “Make Over” affirms the main spirit of the album – that it isn’t necessary to meet the expectations of a society that would rather have you look and act in a certain way.

With Stripped we saw a pop icon take charge of her career, sexuality, and sound, regardless of negative or positive reactions from the public. Despite its mixed critical opinions after its release, Stripped will remain a beacon of hope for the downtrodden, disenfranchised and voiceless.