Iconic. Influential. Inspirational. Three words that describe Christina Aguilera’s game changing sophomore mainstream album, Stripped. Released 19 years ago to date (in the UK), which happily coincides with my birthday, Stripped is still Aguilera’s most popular album with fans around the world and still her most personal that many relate to.
Following on from my rundown of favourite tracks from Bionic and to honour this multi-million selling (that should have sold even more) and multi-award winning album (that should have won even more accolades – including the 2004 Brit Award for Best International Album and Best Pop Vocal Album at the 46th Grammy Awards, which it undeservingly lost to Justin Timberlake’s Justified…), here are my top 10 favourite tracks from Stripped:
First in at number 10, the same as the track’s number on the album, this song’s name describes it perfectly. A taster of what was to come after Stripped with Back to Basics, Underappreciated is a jazzy, soulful little number with a sassy hook you can sing along with and a sax solo you can easily groove to. Along with many other songs featuring a wide range of musical styles, Underappreciated showed Aguilera’s maturity and versatility as a musician that her peers were lightyears behind in having.
The song that continued to cement Christina as a bonafide superstar (that she still is), Beautiful was rightfully a chart-topper (though unfortunately not in the US) and award-winner. Almost never recorded by her but instead either writer Linda Perry or ex-nemesis P!nk, it’s hard to think what their versions would sound like or how big the song would have been without her voice to it. It’s also astonishing to think her vocal was done in one take and the first “raw, imperfect” take is the one we hear on the album. The “beautiful” thing about Beautiful is that it is a universal song that even the most seemingly self-confident of people can relate to on one level or another; it always has been, still is and always will be a beacon of hope for almost everybody everywhere.
8) Get Mine, Get Yours
Known for embracing her sexual side to say the least, Xtina put out Get Mine, Get Yours almost like a prelude to Dirrty which was the next track after it on the album – the foreplay before it if you will. Her sensual vocals ooze confidence and sexuality on this song as she unashamedly sings about no strings attached sex, which few other singers would have dared to admit or touch upon back in the day.
The Spanish version of it – Dame Lo Que Yo Te Doy (literally “give me what I give you”) makes the song sound even sexier, if that was possible and of course it is, because everything sound sexier in Spanish, right?
What was almost the fifth single from the album in a bid to appeal to a more “urban” audience, Impossible was put on the backbench in favour of the ballad The Voice Within, which while a popular song – particularly among reality TV singing competition hopefuls – does leave people wondering what could have been had Christina’s first choice been given the go-ahead.
A lyrically similar song to Underappreciated, Impossible is a modern-day version of Aretha Franklin’s hit Ain’t No Way, sharing quite striking similarities that some people have speculated of it simply being a cheeky rehash that is different enough to have avoided a lawsuit. Copyright accusations aside, this bluesy number is full of emotion and soul that is a firm favourite among many fans. It’s such a shame this is the only collaboration writer and producer Alicia Keys and her have done since.
6) Can’t Hold Us Down
I previously ranked this certified R&B bop as my favourite female empowerment anthem and so it makes sense it ranks within my top 10 favourite tracks from the album. While of course the lyrics are empowering and her vocals fiery, it’s the instrumental intro and outro beats that seal the deal, making it a song you can’t not get up and strut your stuff or “shout louder” to.
5) Walk Away
Walk Away is nothing short of a lyrical, musical and vocal masterpiece. A song that details a complicated, up-and-down toxic relationship with an enchanting instrumental that accompanies the lyrical journey and emotion, and with her vocals exploring different tones and textures as she laments and fights with herself, Walk Away is by far one of Xtina’s most unique and captivating ballads of her career. It’s seamless transition to Fighter is also ingenious as it’s as if she switches straight from being torn with emotional exhaustion to being full of confidence, attitude and vengeance with just a snap of the fingers.
4) Keep On Singin’ My Song
One of several self-empowerment anthems on the album, Keep On Singin’ My Song is a great closer for it. Wrapping up and defining what the album is about – self-discovery and self-love, KOSMS fittingly ends the journey, the experience, and the emotions that Christina took us on on a self-assured high note (literally, as she belts out a note towards the end and sustains it as if her life depends on it).
Another staple song in Xtina’s repertoire and one of her signatures. Many popstars wish they had the guts, grit and skill to pull off a song like Fighter. A hard-hitting, rip-roaring rock-infused anthem that once again showed off Christina’s versatility as a singer and artist, Fighter is not a song to be trifled with unless you’ve got an inner rockstar ready to be released.
A track that does exactly what its name says, Soar is an uplifting number that I’ve consistently said is one of her best non-single songs. Lyrically similar to The Voice Within, her vocals on Soar swirl, sweep and – of course – soar with a gorgeous gospel influence that’s also present in Keep On Singin’ My Song that you can’t help but close your eyes, swaying your arms in the air and singing along to.
Dirrty was perhaps the biggest career-defining moment for Aguilera. She fought to have it released as the lead single from Stripped instead of Beautiful in what was seen by some as an extremely risky move because its lyrical content and music video were so risqué. But while it stalled on the US Hot 100 (probably due to radios not playing it because of the above), it was a success elsewhere.
With Dirrty she broke away from her good girl image in ways rarely seen before from other pop stars before or since then. She owned the song, which samples Get Dirty (I Can’t Get in da Club) by Redman, flipping it to a female perspective of wanting to do nothing more than get down and Dirrty in a club. Her vocals are bold, sexually aggressive, confident and commanding as she unashamedly presented her reinvented “Xtina” persona to the world.
But in terms of being my favourite track on the album, Dirrty is simply a catchy, hook-filled song, with thumping beats that could get pretty much anyone up and dancing – transforming perhaps sometimes even the shyest of people into sex-mad beasts – and shouting and riffing along with her.
Shoutouts must also be given to I’m OK, a heart-wrenching song that candidly tells of the domestic abuse her and her mother went through when she was a child, and Infatuation, which recalls her first love and has a great, danceable Latin flavour to it.
What are your favourite songs from the legendary Stripped? Let me know in the comments below!