It’s common knowledge that Christina Aguilera began eyeing entry into the recording industry (traditionally an adult playground for good reasons) while part of an ambitious clique of New Mickey Mouse Club cast members (if not earlier). Endless talent contests and auditions surely made an indelible impression on Christina, because the outcome, Christina Aguilera, is nothing more than karaoke of the highest level.

Not since Rachel Sweet has there been a solo female teenage vocalist so effortlessly capable, but Christina’s abilities are wasted on imitation. She mimics Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and Celine Dion with pinpoint accuracy, a trick encouraged by her handlers. “I Turn To You” mirrors the arrangement of Mariah Carey’s early ballads, down to the trickling wo-wo-wos and vocal overkill Carey helped make commonplace in the 1990s. “So Emotional” and “Love for All Seasons” are also carefully sculpted in Mariah’s image. “Come On Over (All I Want Is You)” could easily be mistaken for an outtake from Whitney Houston’s second album; the track is virtually a remake of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”. “Reflection” (previously released on Disney’s Mulan soundtrack) is a continuation in this same vein. “Obvious” = Celine Dion. It’s all been done, and overdone.

George Harrison said it 20 years ago in a song, “Blood from a Clone,” roasting the music business (and probably by extension, most of its consumers as willing, passive coconspirators) for deliberately choosing low-quality replicas — more of the same — over music new or distinctive. Christina Aguilera is very close to pop by genetic engineering. What Christina couldn’t duplicate from Houston, Carey and Dion is that their first albums all had a degree of originality, even personality. This exploratory process, which usually provides a glimmer of potential, has simply been skipped over. She’s just retracing their greatest hits (using the term “greatest” advisedly) without any possibility of spontaneity or warmth.

This leaves the album’s opening song (and its first single), “Genie in a Bottle,” as the only song that is uniquely hers. (“What A Girl Wants” is sufficiently generic as to be anyone’s.) It looks hotter than it is, a come-hither illusion on top of the predictable disingenuous denials that the couplet “I’m a genie in a bottle/You gotta rub me the right way” is not intended to be sexual. Ironically, it’s the only moment in which the music on Christina Aguilera achieves any degree of subtlety. There is the usual proselytizing about being a positive role model, but her current choice of women to model herself after is questionable. A bottled-up Christina may be waiting to be uncorked, but the world scarcely cries out for another hysterical cartoon diva or more composite Diane Warren ballads.

©2000, 2003 Rodney E Griffith. All rights reserved.