Christina Aguilera’s Stripped turns 15 this month!
This month marks the 15th anniversary of Christina Aguilera’s sophomore album, Stripped. Released officially on October 29, 2002 the album marked a pivotal shift in the pop divas career and overall image. Executive produced by a 21 year old Christina, it has hit platinum status four times in the US, has sold 4.3 million copies (also in the US), and received three Grammy nominations.
Stripped included heavy themes of misogyny, self-care, domestic violence, homophobia, first love, and sex. Looking and listening back, Aguilera’s work still feels so relevant to the struggles countless people face today. (Yes, I think it’s safe to say this is now a classic). The album was Christina letting the world know that she was no longer a former Mouseketeer – she was a woman with a message.
Breaking Down Stripped
Her opening single, “Dirrty” received immediate backlash after the video dropped. Shows like SNL and Family Guy made jokes of it, while music critics called it racy and raunchy, and countries like Thailand just out right banned it altogether. The backlash itself played into the exact narrative this track and others on the album talked about. “Women should be able to express, explore and own their sexuality without being criticized and labeled for it — a privilege only afforded to men.” Another track to come in hot on the double standards of sexual behavior for men and women? Lil’ Kim featured song, “Cant Hold Us Down.”
“If you look back in history / it’s a common double standard of society / The guy gets all the glory the more he can score / While the girl can do the same yet you call her a whore.”
The track, sadly, still holds a lot of resonance on today’s society. The virgin-whore complex, a woman not being able to speak her mind without being called a *whispers* bitch, a woman having to hold back her sexuality in order to not crush a man’s ego.
And while we have a loud, in your face sexual feminist revolution for us Y2K teenage and 20-something girls one hand of this album, on the other, we have an introspective look into who we are as people.
Tracks like “Soar,” “Make Over,” and “Keep On Singing My Song” deal with themes of self-acceptance, self-love, and self-forgiveness.
“I woke up this morning with a smile on my face/and nobody’s gonna bring me down today,” (“Keep On Singing My Song”)
“Don’t be scared to fly alone/find a path that is your own/love will open every door/it’s in your hands/the world is yours,” (“Soar”)
“I don’t need nobody trying to make me over/I just want to live simple and free,” (“Make Over”)
The arguably, most stand-out and ahead of it’s time track on Stripped? Second single, “Beautiful.”
“Beautiful” won Christina a Grammy for Best Female Vocal Performance. The video also earned her a GLAAD Media Award for it’s positive portrayal of gay and transgender youth. Now, we have to keep in mind that this is 2002. And although, yes being gay and transgender has always been a thing, it wasn’t recognized as such. For perspective, just one year earlier, The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-gender loving unions. We still do not have a federal, country-wide ruling in the favor of same-sex marriage in the US. And it is 2017.
The video for “Beautiful” covered additional issues of representation from other perspectives too. A young African-American woman burning magazine pages featuring only white women and a teen boy wrestling with body image issues. Once again, this is 2002, people. Christina Aguilera was really ahead of her time with this one.
On a personal note, I remember buying this album and listening to it every day. (I still have the hard copy CD at home). I knew this album was special, even at 11 years old, and brought it with me everywhere. As I sit back now at 25 years old and re-listen, I still feel the same things I felt the first time. It’s finally time this album got the credit it deserves. Calling Stripped anything less than a classic would be doing it a complete disservice. Sooooooo STRIPPED IS A CLASSIC, PEOPLE.