RCA - 2002 - 77 minutes

Three years ago, Christina Aguilera was the focus of major media attention… the Britney comparisons… the unusual name… the powerful voice… the 'teen-sensation' craze was in full-flow, and Christina was floating high. Behind the scenes, though, was an entirely different story. "I was under the thumb of people who were mostly interested in keeping me doing exactly the same thing", she admitted. But Aguilera has emerged with mature character and an exceptional album.

Her second album, 'Stripped', (according to her biog) strips away the last remnants of Aguilera's teen idol persona: witness the video for her single 'Dirrty'. Cynics may discount it as smut, but in a world where sex sells, 'Dirrty' shows ingenuity and does her no harm. Quite the opposite, in fact... Her recent performance at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Barcelona was the most talked-about - but for her vocal ability, as well as her appearance.

With 'Stripped' Aguilera tries her hand at different genres and succeeds. Opener 'Can't Hold Us Down' is a funky number with support from Lil' Kim, that blends into 'Walk Away', a distinctly beautiful piano/cocktail-lounge number. Then she rocks-out to 'Fighter', an in-your-face ode to new-found confidence produced by new studio wizard Scott Storch, who contributes vastly to many tracks on the album. 'Impossible' was written and produced by Alicia Keys, and is a great example of Aguilera's impressive vocal range. 'Make Over' is a Linda Perry production, who has produced Pink, and it has all the aggression of a Pink track, with a beat straight out of Beck's 'New Pollution'.

'Stripped' is definitely one of the better releases of 2002. There are plenty of tracks here worthy of single release, but 'Dirrty' was the perfect choice to re-launch the new Aguilera. Just one question… what's with the dog-barking throughout? Answers on a postcard please.

David Byrne

Tracklisting: Stripped Pt1 - Can't Hold Us Down - Walk Away - Fighter - Infatuation (Interlude) - Infatuation - Loving Me For Me (Interlude) - Loving Me 4 Me - Impossible - Underappreciated - Beautiful - Make Over - Cruz - Soar - Get Mine, Get Yours - Dirrty - Stripped Pt2 - A Voice Within - I'm OK - Singing My Song