Kate's Notes

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Christina Aguilera

Christina Aguilera

From a very young age, Christina Maria Aguilera (born December 18, 1980) has been recognized, renowned, and celebrated for her powerful singing voice, wowing her audience and amazing her peers since the dawn of her musical career. Not only has Aguilera had continued commercial success, she has also proven to be quite the chameleon as well: changing hair-styles, fashion choices, and even her projected public image, from the teenage pop star in her original album Christina Aguilera, to the sexually aggressive vixen in her second studio album, Stripped, and then finally to her most recent album, Back to Basics, where her fashion choices emulate a Marylyn Monroe-esque old Hollywood glamour, and her music style carries such elements as soul, jazz and the blues.

Aguilera is a five-time Grammy Award-winning American pop singer-songwriter who was signed to RCA Records after recording "Reflection" for the Disney film Mulan in 1998, when she was only 17-years old.

Since her debut Aguilera has sold over 30 million records internationally.

Early Life and Career

Born in Staten Island, New York, Aguilera’s father, Fausto Wagner Xavier Aguilera, was a U.S. Army sergeant, and her mother, Shelly Loraine Fidler, was a Spanish teacher. Aguilera's father was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, while her Pennsylvanian mother has Irish and Dutch ancestors. Her parents married when her mother was 20-years old and her father 31.

Aguilera lived with her father and mother until she was 6 or 7 years old. According to both Aguilera and Fidler, her father was very controlling, as well as physically and emotionally abusive; she later wrote about her difficult childhood in the songs, "I'm OK" in Stripped, and "Oh Mother" in Back to Basics. When her parents divorced, her mother took her and her younger sister Rachel to her grandmother's home in Rochester, Pennsylvania, a blue-collar suburb of Pittsburgh.

Aguilera knew from a young age that she wanted to be a singer. She performed at block parties and in several talent competitions – competitions that she usually won. Soon Aguilera became infamous in the talent show circuit, known as "the little girl with the big voice"; if competitors in local talent competitions learned they would be up against her in any given week, they immediately backed out, claiming that sending their children to compete against Aguilera was "like sending a lamb to the slaughter."

Not only were her peers intimidated by her talents, but apparently they became jealous of her as well, and would frequently subject her to ridicule, ostracism, and, in one gym class, attempted assault. In addition, there were acts of vandalism directed toward her included the slashing of the tires on the family car. Eventually the family relocated and Aguilera swore that she would keep her talent a secret, lest another backlash occur.

On March 15, 1990, Aguilera appeared on “Star Search” singing Etta James' "A Sunday Kind of Love", but lost the competition. Soon after losing on “Star Search,” she returned home and appeared on Pittsburgh's KDKA-TV's Wake Up with Larry Richert to perform the same song again; people called in to say that the then 10-year-old Aguilera didn’t sound any younger than a 20-year-old.

Throughout her youth in Pittsburgh, Aguilera sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" before Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey games, Pittsburgh Steelers football and Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games. But her first major role in entertainment came in 1993 when she joined the Disney Channel's variety show "The New Mickey Mouse Club.” Her co-stars included Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Rhona Bennett (who later became a member of En Vogue), Ryan Gosling, and Keri Russell. Aguilera's Mickey Mouse Club co-stars called her "the Diva." One of her most notable performances was of Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing." When "The Mickey Mouse Club" ended in 1994, Aguilera began recording demos in an attempt to get signed to a record label.

At fourteen, Aguilera recorded her first song, "All I Wanna Do," a hit duet with Japanese singer Keizo Nakanishi.

In 1997, she represented the United States at the "Golden Stag" International Festival with a two-song set which included a Sheryl Crow and Diana Ross song.

Vocal Ability

Aguilera, known for her strong vocals and powerful voice, has rivaled many of her other contemporaries and has been referred to as the 'voice of our generation'. In the MTV special All Eyes on Christina, John Norris said that Aguilera "has a four-octave vocal range." Aguilera has been noted to possess the ability to hit notes in the whistle register. However, she does not use this as much (as opposed to Mariah Carey), and prefers to sing more powerful, mid-range notes.

A review in an Entertainment Weekly article mentions her "tackling that dog-whistle high note" at the 3:20 mark in the song "Soar", which was the note "F". It was the F two octaves above the middle one. The song is from the album Stripped.

She is also known to "warble" which is to sing or whistle with trills, quavers, or melodic embellishment.

1998–2001: Christina Aguilera

In 1998 Aguilera sang the High "E" ("E" above tenor high "C") in full voice on a cover of Whitney Houston's "Run to You" that she recorded with an old tape recorder in her bathroom. From that recording, she was selected to record the song "Reflection" for the Disney animated production of Mulan (1998). Recording "Reflection" led to Aguilera earning a contract with RCA Records during the same week. The song peaked within the top twenty on the Adult Contemporary Singles Chart, and it was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for "Best Original Song" in 1998.

Her singles off of her first album Christina Aguilera, "Genie in a Bottle", "What a Girl Wants" and "Come on Over Baby (All I Want Is You)" topped the Billboard Hot 100 during 1999 and 2000, and "I Turn to You" reached #3. Aguilera won the "Best New Artist" award at the 2000 Grammy Awards, and she was nominated for "Best Female Pop Vocal Performance" for "Genie in a Bottle."

Later in 2000, there was a heavy Latin music trend sweeping the country, riding on the tales of the pop singer Ricky Martin. Aguilera reacted to the craze by accentuate her Latin heritage, and releasing her first Spanish album, Mi Reflejo on September 12, 2000. This album contained Spanish versions of songs from her English debut as well as new Spanish tracks. It peaked at #27 on the Billboard 200 and number one on the Latin album charts, and in 2001 it won Aguilera a Latin Grammy Award for “Best Female Pop Vocal Album.” The Album has sold 2.1 million copies worldwide and has been certified Gold(500,000) in the USA and 3x Platinum (600,000* Latin album) under the RIAA's Los Premios de Oro y Platino program. She also won the World Music Award as the best selling Latin artist that year.

Aguilera also released a Christmas album on October 24, 2000 called My Kind of Christmas. It peaked at #28 on the Billboard 200, has sold 1.3 million copies worldwide, and has been certified Platinum (1 million) in the USA. Ricky Martin asked her to duet with him on the track "Nobody Wants to Be Lonely" from his album Sound Loaded; released in 2001 as the album's second single, it reached the top five in the United Kingdom and Germany, top twenty in the U.S., and top forty in Canada, Switzerland, and Australia.

In 2001, Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya, and Pink were chosen to remake Patti LaBelle's 1975 single "Lady Marmalade" for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. "Lady Marmalade" hit number one on the Hot 100 for five weeks and reached number one in eleven other countries, and it earned all four performers a Grammy Award for "Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals".

Although Aguilera's debut album was very well-received, she was beginning to become despondent with the image her management had created for her. At the time, Aguilera was marketed as a bubblegum pop artist, because of the genre's upward financial trend. However, she publicly mentioned plans of her next album to have much more depth, both musically and lyrically. Aguilera felt that Steve Kurtz, at the time has too much influence in matters of the singer's creative direction, the role of being her exclusive personal manager, and over scheduling; subsequently, she decided to seek legal means of terminating their management contract.

In October 2000, Aguilera filed a Breach of Fiduciary Duty lawsuit against Kurtz for improper, undue and inappropriate influence over her professional activities, as well as fraud. According to legal documents, Kurtz did not protect her rights and interests. Instead, he took action that was for his own interest, at the cost of hers. The lawsuit came about when Aguilera discovered Kurtz used more of her commissionable income than he was allotted, and had paid other managers to assist him. She also petitioned the California State Labor Commission to nullify the contract. After terminating Kurtz's services, Irving Azoff was hired as her new manager. The change in management marked a new change in how Aguilera was marketed, as well as what music she would do in the future.

Kurtz countersued later that month for breach of contract, claiming that the singer violated the same agreement she had sued to void. In the lawsuit, he included others close to Aguilera, alleging their intent to sabotage his business relationship with Aguilera. He also singled out Azoff for being in violation of the terms of Kurtz's contract.

2002–2003: Stripped

On October 29, 2002, after much delay, Aguilera's second full-length English album, Stripped, was released selling more than 330,000 copies in the first week and peaking at #2 on the Billboard 200. The majority of Stripped was co-written by Aguilera (who had recently signed a global music publishing deal with BMG Music Publishing). The album was influenced by many different subjects and music styles, including rhythm and blues, gospel, soul, balladry, pop rock, hip-hop and jazz.

The album was very well-received by critics although Aguilera's vocals were overlooked as she began to cultivate a more sexually provocative image. After the release of the album, she took part in photoshoots for magazines such as Maxim, Rolling Stone and CosmoGirl!. Many of these photographs featured her nude or semi-nude. She denied that this change was a matter of publicity, claiming that the image better reflected her true personality than did the image she cultivated back in 1999. It was during this time Aguilera referred to herself as "Xtina," stating that it was a "reflection of her darker self." She began to dress in raunchy revealing clothing such as riding chaps, with just black underwear underneath them, and she died her hair a variety of color, from hot pink to black.

Initially, the raunchy image had a negative effect on Aguilera in the U.S., especially after the release of her controversial "Dirrty" music video. While the video for "Dirrty" became a huge hit on MTV, it disappointed on the U.S. singles chart. However, the single was a huge hit worldwide, reaching number one in several countries. The album reached the top five on the UK, U.S. and Canadian album charts, though it was initially considered a "sophomore slump."

The second single, "Beautiful", became a huge radio hit and earned her another Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Three more singles from the album ("Fighter", "Can't Hold Us Down" featuring Lil' Kim, "The Voice Within") were released in the following two years and were huge hits helping the album stay on the charts for the next two years. Stripped stayed on the U.S. and UK album charts until well into 2004, and went on to be certified 4x Platinum in the U.S., ending up at number ten on Billboard's year-end album chart. Kelly Clarkson's second single "Miss Independent" was co-written by Aguilera, having been half-finished for Stripped." Stripped has sold more than 10 million records worldwide.

In June, Aguilera joined Justin Timberlake on the final leg of his international Justified tour, held in the U.S. This portion of the tour became a co-headliner called the Justified & Stripped Tour.

In August an overhead lighting grid collapsed from the ceiling of the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, causing major damage to the sound and video equipment below. Because the collapse occurred hours before the performance, only a few stagehands were injured, but a few shows were cancelled or postponed. In the fourth quarter of that year Aguilera continued to tour internationally without Timberlake, and changed the name of the tour to the Stripped tour. She also dyed her hair black and gained a considerable amount of weight, given her previous lithe frame. It was still one of the top-grossing tours of that year, and sold out most of its venues.

In light of the tour's success, another U.S. tour was scheduled to begin in mid-2004 with a new theme and featuring Chingy as an opening act. The tour was scrapped because of Aguilera's vocal cord injuries suffered shortly before its opening date. It was later reported by the British tabloid newspaper The Sun that low ticket sales and lack of new material were actually the major contributing factors in the tour's cancellation. Aguilera has denied the report.

In a tribute to Madonna's performance at the inaugural MTV Video Music Awards' ceremony, Aguilera performed a kiss with the singer-actress at the 2003 edition of the ceremony in August. The incident occurred during the opening performance of Madonna's songs "Like a Virgin" and "Hollywood" with fellow popstar Britney Spears.

Also, during 2003, Aguilera also became the face of the fashion house Versace.

2004–2005: Back to Basics

After years of baring her midriff, or being on the worst dressed lists, Aguilera decided to embrace a more mature image, with a pin-up-girl flair and platinum blond hair; this move was met with more praise than criticism, with articles using punch lines such as "From Crass to Class."

She eventually dyed her hair cherry blonde and recorded a jingle, "Hello", for a Mercedes-Benz ad, becoming the new face of Mercedes-Benz. The single was originally going to be released to advertise 'Mercedes-Benz' but it was never pulled through as she had already started working on new material. Shortly after, she dyed her hair blonde and cut it short, and took on a Marilyn Monroe look; many of her fans believe she is one of the main proponents (along with Dita Von Teese, Gwen Stefani and Ashley Judd) in bringing back the 1920s to 1940s Hollywood glamour look.

In the 2004 United States presidential election, Aguilera was featured on billboards for the "Only You Can Silence Yourself" online voter registration drive run by the nonpartisan, non-profit campaign "Declare Yourself." In these political advertisements Aguilera was shown with her mouth sewn shut, to symbolize the effects of not voting. She appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to discuss the importance of voting.

In late summer 2004, Aguilera released two singles. The first, "Car Wash", was a remake of the Rose Royce disco song recorded as a collaboration with rapper Missy Elliott for the soundtrack to the film Shark Tale. The second song is also a collaboration, but this time as a second single from one of Nelly's double-release albums, Sweat, titled "Tilt Ya Head Back." Both singles failed commercially in the U.S., but did considerably better in other parts of the world. After much delay, Aguilera's first DVD live-recording from a concert tour, Stripped Live in the UK, was released in November 2004. In late December she officially released a fragrance, Xpose, which has only been available in a few European countries.

Aguilera collaborated with jazz artist Herbie Hancock on a cover of Leon Russell's "A Song for You" recorded for Hancock's album Possibilities, released in August 2005. Aguilera and Hancock were later nominated for the Grammy Award for "Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals." Aguilera went back to her “Mickey Mouse Club” roots when she helped open the 50th Anniversary for Disneyland by performing "When You Wish upon a Star", and she also collaborated with Andrea Bocelli on the song "Somos Novios" for his album Amore, released in early 2006. She performed at "Unite of the Stars" charity banquet in Johannesburg, South Africa in late 2005 with stars such as Diana Ross and Westlife in aid of Unite Against Hunger, and she also performed at the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund at the Coca-Cola Dome in November.

Aguilera signed a contract with European cell phone operator Orange to promote the new Sony Ericsson Walkman phone across the continent. She was featured in a Pepsi commercial alongside Lebanese singer Elissa as well as Korean pop singer Rain in May. The spot aired during the 2006 World Cup.

She posed nude for a Marilyn Monroe-inspired photoshoot in the May 2006 issue of GQ magazine. She also granted the magazine an interview in that issue, in which she expressed disappointment in fellow singer Mariah Carey, saying, "She was never cool to me... to the point that one time we were at a party and I think she got really drunk and she had just really derogatory things to say to me." In response, Carey issued a press release saying "It is sad yet predictable that she would use my name at this time to reinvent past incidents for her promotional gain." Aguilera then released her own statement claiming, "My intentions were not to upset Mariah with any statements that were published or taken out of context. I have all the respect in the world for her."

Aguilera also posed for two Maxim covers, first in the December 2002/January 2003 issue and a second time in the Februrary/March 2007 issue. Her first cover appearance set a sales record for the magazine. In the latter issue, she is quoted saying "We had fun working with certain clothes, or the lack thereof. I never mind contorting myself for a good cause."

Aguilera's third English studio album, Back to Basics, released August 15, 2006, went to #1 in 13 countries. The lead single "Ain't No Other Man" was a substantial success, reaching #6 in the U.S. and the top three in the UK. It reached #1 on the Billboard´s Hot Dance Club Play and Hot Dance Airpay for several weeks. It also was #18 on Rolling Stone's greatest songs of 2006.

Aguilera described the double CD as "a throwback to the 20s, 30s, and 40s-style jazz, blues, and feel-good soul music, but with a modern twist." Producers on the album include DJ Premier, Kwamé, Linda Perry, and Mark Ronson. One track, "F.U.S.S.", was written as a response to the animosity between Aguilera and Scott Storch during the recording of Stripped. She received writing credit for every track and was the executive producer for the album, which debuted at number one in the U.S.[24] and the UK. "Hurt" is the 2nd single of Back to Basics and peaked at #4 on United World Chart, #1 on Billboard´s Eurochart Singles Sales and MTV Euro Top 20 and at #19 on the Billboard Charts.

Aside from promoting her own album, Aguilera collaborated with Sean "Diddy" Combs on a track, titled "Tell Me", from his album "Press Play". The single was released in Autumn 2006. The single debuted at number #20 in the UK based on downloads alone, then the single jumped to number #8 the next week.

In September 2006, she announced her Back To Basics Tour with eighteen European dates which began on November 17 and end on December 17. Following this, contrary to her previous plans to tour blues and jazz clubs for a more intimate setting, she will tour North America in a 41-date arena tour, which began February 20, 2007 in Houston and ending on May 5 in Florida. She insisted that the jazz club tour would push through sometime after. "We're definitely going to mix it up, change it up, do some things that are not on the record, do some favorite classics of mine. We're really going to have fun and experiment with new ideas and interesting places to go to that have a throwback appeal and vibe." In 6 months Back to Basics has managed to sell over 3.3 million copies worldwide according to Mediatraffic. In the United States it has sold over 1.3 million copies.

The third single from Back to Basics is set to be "Candyman", which is influenced by pop music from the 1940s and 1950s. The music video was filmed on January 25, 2007; many say that in this video Aguilera has gone for a more Rita Hayworth look. The video is expected to be released the same day Aguilera begins the American leg of her Back to Basics Tour.

At the 49th Annual Grammy Awards, Aguilera again won the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Ain't No Other Man". She made a noteworthy performance at the Grammy Awards paying tribute to James Brown with her rendition of his song It's a Man's Man's Man's World, where the audience gave her a standing ovation. She will also guest star on CSI: NY in late February. In January 2007, Aguilera was named the 19th richest woman in entertainment by Forbes, with a net worth of $60 million/£30 million+.

Personal Relationships

During 2000, Aguilera was rumored to have dated MTV DJ Carson Daly, although both parties denied it. The relationship was the subject of much discussion after the release of Eminem's song "The Real Slim Shady", in which Eminem satirically suggests that Aguilera had performed fellatio on both Daly and Fred Durst, the lead singer of Limp Bizkit, and had given the rapper himself a venereal disease. Aguilera called the song's innuendo "disgusting" and "untrue."

Aguilera and Eminem reportedly made peace three years later backstage at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Aguilera dated Puerto Rican-born dancer Jorge Santos for two years until the relationship ended in September 2001.

In late 2002, Aguilera began dating music marketing executive Jordan Bratman. Their engagement was announced in February 2005, and they married on November 19, 2005, in the Napa Valley. The couple celebrated their one year anniversary in Dublin, Ireland.

In late February of 2007 it was rumored that the star was pregnant, though her representatives deny the news.

Charity Work

Throughout her career, Aguilera has been involved with certain charities. She was the first celebrity to sign a letter from PETA to the South Korean government asking that the country stop its alleged "abuse of dogs killed for food." Her involvement in supporting the Defenders of Wildlife have also added to her donations with charities.

Aguilera is still a major contributor in her hometown of Pittsburgh contributing regularly to the Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. According to her official website, she toured the center and donated $200,000 to the shelter. She also has auctioned off front row seats and back stage passes for the Pittsburgh based charity.

She also supports the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Refuge UK.
Aguilera contributes in the fight against AIDS, by participating in AIDS Project Los Angeles' Artists Against AIDS "What's Going On?" cover project. In 2004 Aguilera became the new face for cosmetic company M•A•C and spokesperson for M•A•C AIDS Fund. Aguilera appeared in advertisements of the M•A•C's Viva Glam V lipstick and lipgloss. According to published reports, in November 2005, all of her wedding gifts were submitted to various charities around the nation in support of Hurricane Katrina victims. In addition, Aguilera contributed to YouthAIDS by posing for a joint YouthAIDS and Aldo Shoes campaign for "Empowerment Tags" in Canada, the U.S. and the UK. She was featured with one of three ubiquitous slogans, "Speak No Evil?" and was quoted saying, "HIV is something that people don't want to talk about, hear about, or face."

According to Billboard, singer Elton John hand-picked Aguilera, among others, for his Fashion Rocks concert benefiting his AIDS foundation. The show, which accompanies music and fashion to benefit the fight against AIDS/HIV, is televised annually and aired in September.


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