Welcome back to TGJ Replay!
Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ features, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest reflective segment to act as a written quest to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday. Unlike its TGJ retrospective predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits.
In honor of its 15th birthday (October 26), this week we’ll press play on Christina Aguilera‘s magnum opus: ‘Stripped’…
Despite boasting vocal displays that drew comparisons to many of the great vocal divas before her, early 2002 still saw Grammy-winning powerhouse Christina Aguilera grouped in a class of vocally inferior songstresses due in great part to the similarities of their sonic and visual offerings. At the top of the list of those comparisons lay Britney Spears, Aguilera’s fellow former Disney darling whose overnight success made her the gold standard among young female singers at the time. And, while Christina’s respect in the industry (due to her soaring vocals) flew clouds above that of Spears, the beauties were branded rivals by the press and their respective fan bases – an implied conflict that later became reality.
To distance herself from her fluffier counterparts and demonstrate artistic growth, the then 21-year-old – having already “one-upped” Britney on the visual front by increasing the sexual undertone of her videos (see: ‘Lady Marmalade’) – summoned a collection of hitmakers and collaborators to help create a new sound that would drive a greater sonic wedge between herself and her pop contemporaries. Calling on the talents of Ron Fair, Rockwilder, Scott Storch, Alicia Keys, and many more, Aguilera – acting as executive producer – went to battle the dreaded sophomore slump with the project later christened, ‘Stripped.’
Released October 26, 2002, the album birthed five singles: ‘Dirrty,’ ‘Beautiful,’ ‘Fighter,’ ‘Can’t Hold Us Down,’ and ‘The Voice Within.’
‘Dirrty’ ft. Redman
Chart Peak: #48
Chart Peak: #2
Chart Peak: #20
‘Can’t Hold Us Down’
Chart Peak: #12
‘The Voice Within’
Chart Peak: #33
‘Stripped’ could easily be classified as one of the – if not the – riskiest sophomore albums in the history of pop music. For, rarely has history seen an artist – especially a top-selling act of Aguilera’s magnitude at the time – deviate so far “left” from a successful antedating album by incorporating little to no elements of it in its successor. A polarizing move that proved lucrative on the critical front as some industry insiders and new fans praised her artistic maturity and newfound lyrical substance (see: ‘Beautiful,’ ‘Can’t Hold Us Down,’ ‘The Voice Within,’ etc.), others could not get past the shock value of her sexualized image and gave her entire package an unceremonious thumbs down.
Arguably, that disapproval was reflected in its commercial performance as well. By no means a “flop” by any stretch of the imagination, two years after her least favorite Mouseketeer – Britney Spears – sold a whopping 1.3 million records the first week with her sophomore effort, ‘Oops…I Did It Again,’ ‘Stripped’ moved 330,000 its first week (Aguilera’s personal best at the time). Even on the Hot 100, the domain the powerhouse singer had dominated Spears on with their respective debut projects, ‘Stripped’ only garnered one top 10 placement out of five singles. This, compared to its predecessor, which placed four out of its four singles in the top 5 (three at #1).
Going on to see its content nominated for multiple Grammys across two years, the set’s only near chart-topper – ‘Beautiful’ – took home a Best Female Pop Vocal win in 2004.
As it stands, the album has sold over 10 million worldwide. And, despite not knowing the chart success of its forerunner, will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest offerings of modern pop history. Bold, lush, powerful, and a realistic, authentic sounding fusion of genres her contemporaries couldn’t even dream of emulating (see: pop, rock, blues, jazz, hip hop), ‘Stripped’ set the bar in Xtina’s career by giving her levels of creative control she’d previously not experienced. Speaking more widely, it also set a new bar in the genre for what it meant to marry the concepts of style and substance (sonically and visually) in a teen pop dominated era.
On its 15th anniversary, we salute the album for its undeniable contribution to the game. Now, as we press play on our jam ‘Loving Me For Me,’ we ask you: