Christina Aguilera Back to Basics

Ms. Aguilera likes to take her time. Back to Basics marks only her third album in seven years, but much like her last entrance, it’s a noteworthy return and again, another crucial reinvention. After spinning into the "dirrty” alter-ego Xtina for Stripped in 2002, for B2B Christina has secured enough of that provocative persona (see "Candyman” or the obvious "Still Dirrty”) to mix in with her latest invention: the matured woman. In doing so, she’s also thrown a spin on her already speckled range of R&B, hip-hop and pop, picking a heavy peppering of bop and big band flavours. It’s a mix that has to work, and for the most part the seductress pulls it off. "Nasty Naughty Boy” seems a tad too predictable, but that slithering sax and her red-hot vocab ("Now give me a little spankin’!”) trounce the age-old "Fever” any day. On the flipside, "F.U.S.S.” flips an extended middle finger to an old flame that uses minimal production (a rarity on these records) of a soulful electric piano and a cool beat, ensuring an effective kiss-off. Meanwhile, the horn-fuelled hyper beat of "Ain’t No Other Man” and the retro soul of "Back in the Day” represent the album’s club cuts admirably. As with most double albums though, there are some trying moments. Intros on both sides give this a real entertainment vibe, which in her circuit is likely felt necessary. On top of that, Christina really groups together the softies, packing five straight ballads — both uplifting and suffering — on side two, which feels too lopsided against bustier first half. It’s a momentum killer, but if you’re listening to this entire thing from start to finish, by this point you might just not care. Regardless, there’s enough of the Christina everyone loves here to satisfy each and every kind of fan. (RCA)