A far cry from her starting gig on the set of “The Mickey Mouse Club,” Christina Aguilera ditched the mouse ears for a pair of leather ballet heels in her single “Not Myself Tonight” off the 2010-released Bionic.
The now 29-year-old songstress was one of many tween idols of the ’90s that made the more-often-than-not rocky transition into adulthood. Now, Aguilera has hit another critical point in her career, making the switch from Dirrty diva to mom 2.0.
Aguilera’s digital upgrade is an effort to rebrand herself, much like she has managed to do with previous records. The move shows the singer continues to make strides toward keeping up with the tech-centered 21st century.
One would think that the album itself would be the first step in crossing the digital divide, but Aguilera had a different approach.
In a recent interview, Aguilera explained how she creates poster boards of inspiration for albums that she then brings to her producers, saying, “This is what I’m going for; this is ‘the look.’ Let’s make the audio for this look.”
The cover art of Bionic channels Aguilera’s inner Kelly LeBrock, circa “Weird Science,” with a half-human, half-robot portrait of the singer. On second thought, it better resembles Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator.”
Regardless, Aguilera began backing up her newfound fembot on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” when she said motherhood brings an amazing change, and told Oprah, “I think it’s pretty superhuman, and that’s where the inspiration for Bionic came from.”
Critics at Entertainment Weekly have questioned Aguilera’s move, saying it’s more Lady Gaga-inspired than self-created. What critics fail to realize is that Bionic isn’t the artist’s first attempt to reinvent her image.
In just over a decade, Aguilera has crossed from Mouseketeer to bubblegum, Dirrty to classy and finally settled into her own skin. Each new album marks a transition for the artist, and appeals to a growing age group.
With her initial self-titled album, Aguilera was able to tap into the growing generation that had religiously watched “The Mickey Mouse Club.” At the time of the release in 1999, her tween-age followers were still too young to understand the vaguely promiscuous “Genie in a Bottle” lyrics, but old enough to generate the sale of over 252,000 copies in its first week. Not bad for a beginner.
Aguilera attempted to repeat the success across a language barrier with Mi Reflejo (My Reflection in Spanish). Released in late 2000, it targeted her roots, appealing to a narrower spectrum of Latin pop fans. Although the record’s first-week sales couldn’t match that of her se
lf-titled, as of 2009 Mi Reflejo has sold over 480,000 copies.
The singer broadened her target audience with Stripped in 2002. Aguilera didn’t simply step outside the box; she broke the bubblegum mold. She wasn’t satisfied with a straight pop sound; Aguilera began developing, reaching out to artists like Alicia Keys and Lil’ Kim. By the time of the album’s release, Stripped claimed hip-hop, soul, gospel, pop rock and contemporary R&B tracks.
The racy, and often raunchy album won her the top two on charts in the U.S. as well as the U.K. The leap of faith came at a price. Although Aguilera grew her fan base, many were unprepared and against her bawdy performance for her video “Dirrty.” They worried about the type of message it was sending to her young fans.
Back to Basics, released in 2006, was Aguilera’s chance to redeem her classy image. She did so by paying homage to the swing, blues and jazz artists that inspired her when she was growing up.
With its upbeat, catchy tunes like “Candyman” and “Ain’t No Other Man,” the album proved to be her most successful so far. It debuted at the number one spot on the U.S. Billboard 200. The record also went Platinum in eight countries including U.S., and went Triple Platinum in Canada, Ireland and Russia. Back to Basics proved that it pays to have class.
Bionic’s single, “Not Myself Tonight,” is tapping back into Aguilera’s days of Dirrty, although the songstress insists that it’s more sophisticated. The single debuted at 23 on the Billboard Hot 100, suggesting that her audience is now mature enough to handle Aguilera’s outlandish antics. The success was relatively short-lived when the single plunged to 49 in its second week.
To complete her futuristic brand, Aguilera had planned a special effects-driven, highly electronic tour starting in July. She later announced the tour would be postponed until 2011 due to insufficient ticket sales, leaving enough time for the artist to plan her next revamp; mom 3.0?