Aguilera, Christina : Just Be Free

Pop sensation. Very unsensational record. Now re-released...

Before Christina Aguilerabecame an over-made-up harpy, she made a really terrible album. This is it. Recorded pre-‘Genie In A Bottle’, her breakthrough hit, ‘Just Be Free’ combines lame ‘dance’ grooves with lyrics that would disgrace a Hallmark card, delivered inAguilera‘s teeth-grinding vocal style. Granted,

she was only in her mid-teens when she wrote and recorded this stuff, but it’s not so much juvenile as remedial.

The title track (which, like two other songs, appears again in a slightly different version) could almost be construed as a postmodernist joke – a song composed entirely of pop clichés! [I]”On your feet/Moving to the beat/Moving to the rhythm/Feeling free/Music’s pumping/So get on your feet/Take a chance/And feel the beat”[/I], goes the first verse. Then there’s ‘Believe Me’. We’re not saying the arrangement’s cheap, but it will have you wondering whatever happened to the Bontempi organ.

Listening to the whole album has a similar effect to watching the acts on Pop Idol: am I missing something? Where is the potential here? How is this terrible sub-cabaret act ever going to make a decent pop record? As it happens, Aguilerahas gone on to make one-and-a-quarter good singles (‘Genie In A Bottle’ and ‘Lady Marmalade’) and at least her dress sense is impressively bizarre – most likely, it’s one of the few areas in which she has complete control.

But ‘Just Be Free’ serves as a pretty good indication of why teen pop is approaching obsolescence – why would a kid wantAguilera‘s warbling when he/she can haveOxide & Neutrino, the kind of act Simon Cowell wouldn’t understand if they came up and shot him? The age of the stage school is over – these days, we’re listening to the sound of the streets.

Alex Needham