I have to admit, when Christina Aguilera debuted "Genie In A Bottle" in 1999, I liked it. Granted, I was 15, but even then I didn't exactly dig Britney Spears, and thought it was kind of ridiculous that Aguilera was lumped into the same category as her. I still like Aguilera, I will sing along to her songs without (much) shame and I respect some of the music she has made over the last 10 years. She is a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine because I have always seen her as the one mega pop star who is actually singing about something and even being empowering in the process. However, recently the the internets have been abuzz with chatter about who Aguilera is collaborating with on her next album, thusly granting me permission to exclaim how I've felt all along. Word is, Aguilera is bringing in Ladytron, Goldfrapp and the where-the-hell-have-they-been Le Tigre to work on what is being called an "electronic" album. Hmm. Win!
Aguilera does not immediately come to mind when one thinks of feminist artists, yet her persona and lyrics are arguably far more progressive than those she was compared with almost synonymously in the '90s on the basis of blonde hair and poppy, catchy tunes. A Portland Mercury article from 2004 touts Aguilera as a Riot Grrl. The F-Word reviewed Aguilera's album Stripped in 2003 and celebrated her exploration of beauty standards, sexism and stud/whore double standards set to beats that could be appreciated in the mainstream. In 2001, Aguilera remade "Lady Marmalade" with Pink, Missy Elliot and Lil Kim, all women who pushed the proverbial envelope at the time and who are also, arguably, feminist in their own ways.
Her maturation from a peroxide-haired teenager to maybe-feminist to working with artists whose feminism is not debatable, signifies that maybe this is who she always was, but only now is in a position to fully express it. She was very young when she released her first album, presumably packaged the way she was due to a demand for attractive teenaged pop stars who fit a certain formula, which raises the question of if she originally perpetuated the stereotype of "attractive" she later sought out to crush. Can we really blame the kids who are corporate tools for the negative standards advanced by their image? I'm not sure. I have high hopes for this new record, partly because, as I stated before, I am a fan. But maybe, just maybe, Aguilera will transform once more, and the question of "Is she or isn't she?" will finally be answered.