Release date: October 2002
Stripped is the second English studio album by American pop singer Christina Aguilera, released in 2002. With this album, Aguilera took creative control over a project for the first time, being influenced by many different subjects and music styles, including rhythm and blues, gospel, soul, pop rock, and hip hop. She co-wrote fourteen songs was involved in the production of the record, which was mainly produced by Scott Storch and Linda Perry. During the promotion of the album, Aguilera's public appearance had been criticized heavily in the US, due to her sexual videos and revealing outfits.
In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2001, Aguilera stated that she wanted to make a record that reflected her personality as much as possible, desiring "nothing superficial, no hype, no gloss." Additionally, she described the upcoming album as her 'baby'. Two years later she stated in an interview with Blender Magazine that with this album, she had evolved into an 'artist', moving away from the appellation of 'entertainer', signifying her having become an adult. Additionally, she revealed that she wouldn't have cared if the album sold "one or two million copies". Instead of commercial success, her desire was that "it just had to be real".
Former chief executive of the RCA Records Music Group Bob Jamieson explained that this time Christina helped write the songs and choose the producers. She knew she wanted to move away from her old sound and her "super-clean, cookie-cutter" image and anyone with old-fashioned ideas about what the album should sound like was quickly left behind. At the same time, Aguilera presented her new image and started calling herself "X-Tina".
According to MTV News, Aguilera started recording her second studio album in a Los Angeles studio in September 2001. She declared on multiple occasions that she wanted to take time between her first album and Stripped, stating a disbelief in trying to release an album annually in a bid to keep up with the output of her contemporaries.
The producer who worked on most tracks of the album was Dr. Dre associate Scott Storch, who, according to Entertainment Weekly, made the album sound like a genre-jumping mix tape.
The album found Aguilera working with former 4 Non Blondes member Linda Perry for the first time. When they first met in Perry's L.A. studio, Aguilera asked Perry to entertain her with a song. Perry responded by playing an early draft of "Beautiful", which eventually became Aguilera's second single for Stripped, never thinking that Aguilera would want to record it. Aguilera told MTV that Perry helped her unload a lot of frustration and she also learned to relieve stress by screaming and to accept mistakes. She added; "She taught me that imperfections are good and should be kept because it comes from the heart. It makes things more believable and it's brave to share them with the world."
Glen Ballard, who had previously worked with Aguilera on "The Voice Within", is featured as another writer and producer. When he was interviewed on the work by Aguilera he explained "I think she's a wonderful writer. We already know she's a great singer, but I think we'll be able to add to that. She's a really incredible writer". One track, entitled "Impossible", was produced by R&B artist Alicia Keys. MTV reported that Keys and Aguilera had been wanting to work together for a while, but Keys wanted to socialize and party, "to vibe off each other before" as she explained it, before penning the track. Afterwards they took three sessions to produce the song at the New York's Electric Lady studios in May 2002.
The song, "I'm OK", is a personal account of her emotionally distressing childhood. She speaks about her father and her painful memories from her early life. She explained that she recorded this song for a healing process and to give people in the same situation a voice to relate to. Perry stated in an interview, that Christina started crying while recording.
Two songs on the album, "Infatuation" and "Underappreciated", both written by herself and co writer Ramon Santana, talk about her relationship with former boyfriend Jorge Santos, who was one of her dancers during live performances and videos like "Dirrty". In "Infatuation" she explains how she felt in love with Santos, while in "Underappreciated" she talks about how she fell out of the relationship. The song "Can't Hold Us Down" is a feminist anthem sung to a hip-hop beat, which features artist Lil' Kim. Aguilera described the song as following:
"Should I be quiet just because I'm a woman? Soon, the grudge match has escalated into a battle of the sexes. The guy gets all the glory, the more he can score / But the girl do the same thing, you call her a whore. This is directed to any male who puts down a female for stating her mind. It's definitely to make women feel empowered to do and say what they want to."
"Make Over" is unedited on the album and the only lyrically explicit song on the album. In the chorus Aguilera sings "Savin' all your bullshit for another day."
In Fall 2002 the video of the lead single "Dirrty" premiered on MTV and featured a scantily-clad Aguilera, dancing lecherously with members of both sexes in a run-down, underground boxing venue. Due to the relatively sexually explicit nature of the video, it was heavily criticized by other musicians, as well as the media. In response, Aguilera pointed out the video is more about power and control, later stating, "I may have been the naked-ass girl in the video, but if you look at it carefully, I'm also at the forefront. I'm not just some lame chick in a rap video; I'm in the power position, in complete command of everything around me. To be totally balls-out like that is, for me, the measure of a true artist."
Stripped debuted at number two in the U.S. selling over 330,000 copies. The first single, "Dirrty" was an international success, but failed to reach the top forty in the U.S., and Aguilera's record label quickly released "Beautiful" as a follow-up single. "Beautiful" and as well as the proceeding singles "Fighter", "Can't Hold Us Down" and "The Voice Within" helped Stripped become one of the steadiest selling albums in 2003, coming in at No. 10 on the Billboard year-end list of the top selling albums of the year. To date, the album has sold over 4.2 million copies in the US and more than 11 million copies worldwide.
The staying power of Stripped was also shown in the U.K.. Even though it debuted at a disappointing No.19 and continued its decline on the charts despite "Dirrty" being a No. 1 hit for two weeks, it eventually reached its peak position of No. 2 with the release of "Beautiful" and consistently stayed in the top twenty during 2003 and early 2004.
Billboard ranked "Stripped" at number 77 on the magazine's Top 200 Albums of the Decade. Aguilera had four nominations for the Grammy Awards in the categories Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for "Dirrty" and "Can't Hold Us Down", Best Pop Vocal Album, Song of the Year ("Beautiful") and won the category of Best Female Pop Vocal Performance ("Beautiful").
Promotion and tour
Aguilera started promotion of Stripped on August 29, 2002, when played a piece of album's lead single "Dirrty" and new dirrty look for Christina at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards in New York City. Aguilera supported the album with two different tours. The Justified and Stripped Tour with singer Justin Timberlake took place in North America, while the Stripped World Tour took place in Europe, Japan and Australia. The concert tour consisted in 85 shows. In late 2004 the concert DVD called Stripped Live in the U.K. was released. In the UK on December 8, 2008 the Stripped album was re-released featuring the Stripped Live in the UK DVD.