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Songbook: How Pop Icon Christina Aguilera Traversed Two Cultures & Languages Across Her Discography
Presented by GRAMMY.com, Songbook is an editorial series and hub for music discovery that dives into a legendary artist's discography and art in whole — from songs to albums to music films and videos and beyond.
While many artists dream of pop success in one language, Christina Aguilera is one of the few icons who has translated success both in the American market at-large and the Latin music market. That duality has been cemented with wins at both the GRAMMYs and Latin GRAMMYs. And after performing at the very first Latin GRAMMY Awards in 2000, Aguilera is set to return to the stage at the 2021 Latin GRAMMYs for the first time in more than 20 years.
Aguilera was one of the biggest female artists to emerge from the teen pop explosion of the late '90s, thanks in part to her 1999 self-titled debut album and breakthrough single "Genie in a Bottle." After racking up multiple chart-topping hits on the Billboard Hot 100, Aguilera also won over her peers, as evidenced by her win for Best New Artist at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards in 2000. With an extraordinary career that now spans over two decades, that first award stands as a testament to Aguilera's longevity in the music industry.
Following her commercial and critical success in the 2000s, Aguilera decided to try her hand at the Latin market and embrace her Ecuadorian roots. In September of that year, she released Mi Reflejo, her first Spanish-language album. The LP features Spanish-sung versions of Aguilera's biggest hits at the time, as well as a few new original songs and covers.
At the inaugural Latin GRAMMY Awards in 2000, Aguilera performed the bolero classic "Contigo En La Distancia" and "Genio Atrapado," the latter of which is the Spanish version of "Genie in a Bottle." A year later, Mi Reflejo netted Aguilera her first, and only, Latin GRAMMY win for Female Pop Vocal Album.
On Nov. 18, Aguilera is set to return to the Latin GRAMMYs stage with the first live performance of her new single "Pa Mis Muchachas," alongside Becky G, Nathy Peluso and Nicki Nicole. With her triumphant comeback to Latin music on the horizon, GRAMMY.com is revisiting all of Christina Aguilera's iconic albums.
Christina Aguilera (1999)
True Christina Aguilera fans remember when she sang the ballad "Reflection" for the soundtrack to Disney's Mulan in 1998.
The song was included on her 1999 self-titled debut, but "Genie in a Bottle" launched the album into the public consciousness. The song reached No. 1 in multiple countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Spain, and Italy, with the anthemic "What a Girl Wants" closely following as her second No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart.
To keep the momentum going, Aguilera released up-tempo radio edits of "What a Girl Wants" and her third No. 1 hit, "Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)" — the latter of which offering a preview of the more mature Xtina that was to come.
Aguilera also proved her prowess as a powerhouse vocalist with the soaring single "I Turn To You", penned by Diane Warren. Reflection retains its power to this day, proven by the re-recording of "Reflection" Aguilera shared for Disney's live-action Mulan in 2020.
While her pop peers were continuing to churn out albums every year, Aguilera made sure to take her time with her second record, 2002's Stripped. Now 21 years old, Aguilera looked to shed her teen-pop past with the aptly-titled banger "Dirrty" featuring hip-hop icon Redman.
While that track exemplified her new embrace and harnessing of the power of her sexuality, the sensual cut "Get Mine, Get Yours" pushed even further. But for the second single, Aguilera opted for the most important song of her career: "Beautiful." Linda Perry penned the empowering self-love ballad, but Aguilera took the track into the stratosphere with her soaring voice.
The Jonas Åkerlund-directed music video was ahead of its time in its prominent depictions of queer culture, prominently featuring a trans woman and a gay couple kissing.
In the intervening years, "Beautiful" has become an anthem for the LGBTQ+ community. In 2004, the song earned Aguilera the GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Female Vocal Performance.
After assembling an impressive team of writers for her debut record, Aguilera is credited as co-writer on the majoriy of Stripped, including the deeply personal power ballad "The Voice Within."
On pressings of the album in Latin America, Aguilera included a Spanish version of "Get Mine" as "Dame Lo Que Yo Te Doy."
Back to Basics (2006)
Aguilera's signature growl heralded the first disc in the lead single "Ain't No Other Man," a funky track that exemplifies Aguilera's ability to blend vintage sounds with a fresh hip-hop edge.
In fact, the DJ Premier-produced song would go on to help Aguilera earn the GRAMMY for Best Pop Female Vocal Performance.
While the first disc finds Aguilera delivering brassy cuts like "Slow Down Baby" and "Still Dirrty" (a clever wink to her previous album), the second disc embraces more over-the-top, theatrical sounds.
Produced by Linda Perry and co-written by Perry and Mark Ronson, heartbreaking ballad "Hurt" stands as a second half highlight, while . the flirty bop "Candyman" put a sexy twist on Andrews Sisters-esque boogie-woogie music.
While Aguilera was looking to the past with Back to Basics, 2010's Bionic looked to the future, embracing elements of electronica and synthpop.
Helmed by hip-hop hit-maker Polow da Don, lead single "Not Myself Tonight" channeled Aguilera's powerful voice into a club anthem about giving into the evening's temptations.
For the follow-up singles, Aguilera joined forces with then-rising rap star Nicki Minaj for the tongue-in-cheek banger "Woohoo," and then rounded things out with one of her most underrated ballads, "You Lost Me."
While it may not be the focus of the album, Aguilera ensured that Latin music threads through the catalog here in the form of Spanglish banger "Desnudate."
After going through personal struggles, including divorce, Aguilera decided to channel it into her fifth album, 2012's Lotus: "The unbreakable lotus in me, I now set free," she sings on opener "Lotus Intro".
For lead single "Your Body," Aguilera teamed up for the first time with Max Martin, the pop hit-maker behind classics from Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC. Elsewhere, Aguilera flexed her versatility as an artist that can thrive in any genre.
As a new coach for The Voice, she turned to then-colleague Blake Sheltonfor the country-pop ballad "Just a Fool." The haunting "Cease Fire" alludes to the battles in her personal life, complete with production from Alex Da Kid.
As a gift to her fans for supporting the album, Aguilera released a self-made music video for the electrifying "Let There Be Love," a song that has become another anthem upheld by the LGBTQ+ community,one she often performs in a flurry of rainbows.
To celebrate two decades in the industry since Reflection, Aguilera's sixth album, Liberation, finds the pop star freed of the expectations placed on pop stars to keep chasing hits, instead resulting in an LP that came from the heart.
Aguilera embraced hip-hop influences, as evidenced by lead single "Accelerate", which was produced by Kanye West, Mike Dean, and Charlie Heat, with guest spots from rappers Ty Dolla $ign and 2 Chainz.
In the music video, Aguilera and Lovato are survivors of the system that was trying to control them, empowering each other and the next generation of female artists with their passionate performances.
In 2019, the dynamic duet was nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the GRAMMY Awards.
Burlesque soundtrack (2010)
In 2010, Aguilera made her big screen debut in the movie Burlesque alongside pop legend Cher. Aguilera performed on a majority of the soundtrack as her character, aspiring burlesque dancer Ali Rose.
Elsewhere, Aguilera and Sia were nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song in 2011 for co-writing the breathtaking ballad "Bound to You."
Cher performed two songs on the soundtrack, including the commanding show-stopper "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me." In 2012, the Burlesque soundtrack was nominated for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media at the GRAMMY Awards.
For Latin Pop Fans
Mi Reflejo (2000)
Following the release of her debut self-titled album, Aguilera decided to embrace her Ecuadorian roots and tap into the Latin market with 2000's Mi Reflejo.
The LP's cover, featuring Aguilera with red streaks in her hair, echoes its English-language counterpart, as do the new Spanish versions of all the singles from Christina Aguilera. "Ven Conmigo (Solamente Tú)," the Spanish version of "Come On Over Baby," reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Latin Tracks chart.
Aguilera proved her powerful balladeer prowess could translate in Spanish with the heartwrenching "Pero Me Acuerdo De Tí," a cover of Puerto Rican singer Lourdes Robles' 1991 original. Aguilera released an original song as the album's third single, the fiery "Falsas Esperanzas."
My Kind of Christmas (2000)
Fresh off the success of albums in both English and Spanish, Aguilera opted for holiday warmth with My Kind of Christmas in late 2000.
The 11-track album tackles yuletide classics like "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)," "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and "This Christmas." The true highlights of the set is Aguilera's absolutely heavenly cover of "Oh Holy Night,"
And a rendition of "Merry Christmas, Baby," complete with a partnership with blues music legend Dr. John, who gave her rousing rendition some extra oomph. The album also featured original songs like the twinkling bop "Christmas Time" and mesmerizing "This Year."
The elements all come together to make this one of the best holiday albums by a pop star next to Mariah Carey's iconic Merry Christmas LP.
The 2021 Latin GRAMMYs, hosted by Ana Brenda Contreras, Carlos Rivera and Roselyn Sánchez, will air live on Univision on Thursday, Nov. 18, at 8 p.m. ET/PT (7 p.m. CT). It will also air on cable channel TNT at 19.00 (MEX) / 20.00 (PAN-COL) / 21.00 (VEN) / 22.00 (ARG/CHI), and on Televisa on Channel 5. Learn more about the 2021 Latin GRAMMYs Awards via the Latin Recording Academy's official website.