The 1999-2001 era of “Boy-Bands and the Subversively Sexual Femme Pop Star” is a recent past that is near forgotten. Not just because a self-induced amnesia prevents us from reminiscing about bungee pants and blond highlights, but also, because the very provocateurs of this era have either moved on or moved on out. Some aged beyond the point of irony (The Backstreet Boys), others faded into semi-obscurity (but you’re still cute, Mandy), and the great one self-destructed (at least she has hair again now). Justin Timberlake is the only true survivor of The Mickey Mouse Club, because he teamed up with the right producer, Timbaland, at the right time and became an unlikely tastemaker.
The most interesting person of this crowd, however, is the historically less popular, comparably less attractive singer, the one we defended for having an “unbelievable voice” — Christina Aguilera. She is the only one who has successfully remained in music trend limbo for the last eight years, rising with each fad and ebbing helplessly with its decline.
Unlike Madonna, who set the industry’s trend one pointy breast at a time, Aguilera has been a cautiously calculated follower. She got in “Dirty” in 2002, appearing in a boxing ring with assless chaps to appeal to an aged teeny bopper crowd. Two years later, when the “sexy” image devolved to “slutty” and, subsequently, “trashy,” Aguilera sought reinvention as an edgy pseudo-feminist, rallying behind the inspirational theme of “words can’t bring me down.” Her most recent studio album, 2006’s Back to Basics, saw the artist transmute into a petite Marilyn Monroe during the rise of vintage-chic fashion. Even her greatest hits album, released last year, contained “re-inventions” of her past hits. Yes, “Genie 2.0” was actually on the album, and no, it did not rub anyone the right way. Not to mention she looked like Lady GaGa on the cover. Did these jumbled career choices really happen in less than a decade? Does she still have a belly-button ring?
In talking about her upcoming album, Rob Lewis, Aguilera’s music director, unintentionally summed up the artist’s entire career one paradoxical sentence: “But I can tell you that what you will see and hear from Christina will be different, original, and probably against the grain: the true form for Christina…always re-creating herself.” Something that is constantly changing is much less a “form” than it is a variant of Play-Doh. This explains why Aguilera describes her upcoming sound as “a very futuristic, robotic sound and computer-sounding vocals.” Maybe she was talking about Kanye West, or T-Pain, or the new Black Eyed-Peas single, or Lil Wayne. And to cater to the great dichotomy between indie music and mainstream pop, Aguilera is reportedly teaming up with the electro-indie groups, Le Tigre, Ladytron, and Goldfrapp.
Aguilera is an artist who has had the unfortunate privilege of pioneering a genre in her teenage years, but, in an effort to “get with the times,” has resigned herself to the flightiness of a politician. With the leading reigns of pop music beyond her reach, Aguilera has surrendered herself to the whims of pop culture. Soon, she will willingly relinquish her most defining trait, the voice, to auto-tune. “I’m experimenting with my voice in ways I’ve never done before, almost like a technical, computer-generated sound, which is different for me because I’m the type of vocalist that just belt.” She almost makes it seem like it’s an accident that, based on her stylistic changes, she is the human wikipedia for music in 2000-2010. At least no one else in the Mickey Mouse Club will be able to do that.