Some who know me would think that Top 40 music doesn't have much of a chance with me. I like my music eclectic, raw, a bit dangerous. "Indier than thou" is a phrase that a friend said fits me well. If it sounds cookie cutter at all, then it bores me and I will leave it to its intended consumers: housewives and little girls. (Extra points for knowing what I am referencing there.)
I like Tom Waits and I love that he sounds more punk and adventurous with each passing year. I like most of college radio for the same reason. If Michael Bolton ever knocks on my door, he's getting a hard punch in the nose. Kenny G is easy listening and if he tries to say that he is anything else, the punch to his nose will be punctuated with the following dedication, "This is for Louis Armstrong." I already know that Pat Metheny has my back on that one.
But I say that to say this.
I love the hell out of Christina Aguilera. I liked "Dirrty," "Beautiful," and "Fighter" from her Stripped CD. I thought they were strong songs not without messages of empowerment for the impressionable youths who were the targeted audience. Those who remember 4 Non Blondes from the mid-90s might like to know that lead singer, Linda Perry, is the successful writer of many of Christina's biggest hits.
Now I am listening to her new release, Back To Basics. It's a 2CD set and is as interesting as it is fresh. The grooves are equal parts smooth and funky and it is easily the most mature and invigorating release of her career. It's still very sexy, but the substance of the songs is stronger than anything heard on any Britney or Jessica CD.
"Candy Man" will bring to mind the music of The Andrews Sisters, if not the lyrics (a "one-stop shop" who "makes the panties drop"). "Nasty Naughty Boy" is the sexiest song on the collection and sounds like a torch ballad sung at a burlesque review in the 1920s. In fact, the theme of the second disc is entirely a tribute to the great horn-based music of the music from the 20s and 40s, complete with the beautiful sounds of the pops and hisses found on our favorite old vinyl LPs ("I Got Trouble").
There is bravery in this release. With the strong punch of songs like "Ain't No Other Man" from disc one, she could easily have kept it at 12 songs and done just fine with three or four big singles and a big selling CD. But this is for guys like me. Back To Basics is here to show me that Christina Aguilera is an artist who has staying power. She not only has the talent, but she is surrounding herself with good producers and musicians.
Go buy this set. Download the first CD to your iPod and hit the treadmill. Then come home, turn down the lights and treat your ears to disc two. This ain't just auditory cheesecake, it really will take you somewhere special.