To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the release of Christina Aguilera's third studio album, Fuse brings you Remember the Record: Back to Basics at 10, with a whole week dedicated to the chart-topping release. Stay tuned for Back to Basics fun all week long, and share your memories with us! Start it off with an essay reminding you why the LP was a true risk for an evolving Xtina.
Along with being impeccably talented, Christina Aguilera is one of pop's most exciting divas because she has never been afraid of evolution. In 2006, the singer transformed from the dirrty and explicit seductress we recognized from her Stripped album to a glamorous vintage starlet—thanks to the release of Back to Basics. The double-disc LP pushed boundaries for Christina (and the rest of the music world), as she paid homage to throwback soul and jazz with a refreshing modern spin.
So in honor of the 10th anniversary of Back to Basics, get into our personal ranking of every song on the album!
Jeff: Sure, this is technically just Linda Perry doing her best ringleader impression with a creepy carnival chorus backing her, but it really opens the Disc 2 experience of Back to Basics on the right note. You're automatically thrown into this vintage world, and despite the vibe feeling random to fans, I think it's a gem in its own way. (Pro tip: This song goes great on any Halloween soundtrack.) Rating: 9/10
Jeff: If people were digging "Ain't No Other Man"—and who wasn't?—they'd warm right up to Back to Basics with this on-point intro. Right off the back, we get a feel for where Christina is going with the album with the collection of old-school samples, DJ scratches and modern beats. It was a little self-referential ("There will never be another...Christina Aguilera!"), but also saw her owning the place she was at musically: "That's how music should sound." That's right, mama. Rating: 6.5/10
Bianca: I've always admired that Christina keeps her fans close, no matter how big of an artist she becomes. "Thank You" is solely for the Fighters, and its sampling of previous singles "Can't Hold Us Down" and "Genie in a Bottle" (along with the fan club voicemails!) make it all the more personal. Rating: 6/10
Jeff: If Back to Basics was the vocal showcase of Christina's dreams, you know it was going to end on a gigantic note—literally and figuratively. "The Right Man" is a sweeping, dramatic ballad that most singers wouldn't dare attempt to record. But instead Christina nailed a performance that was only heightened by her emotional connection as she "leaves behind my past, by taking a chance" on her future husband. It was a lasting impression not only that this woman is a vocal wizard, but that she's also extremely introspective, honest and, perhaps most importantly, human. Rating: 9.5/10
Bianca: There's no taking away from Linda Perry's writing skills, but this one comes across as cheesy to me. Xtina's play-by-play storytelling of her wedding day belongs in a C-list '40s film. Rating: 4.5/10
Bianca: The strong points of this album's first disc are the fluid transitions between hip-hop and balladry. Once again, the DJ-inspired sampling (courtesy of rapper/producer Kwamé) mixed with Xtina's pleading vocals will take you back that warm soul of the '60s. Rating: 8/10
Bianca: "I Got Trouble" is one of the standouts from B2B's second disc because it shows Xtina pushing her artistic boundaries. The singer grumbles and purrs over a muffled microphone, which gives the bluesy track an authentic touch. It's such an enjoyable journey back in time. Rating: 7/10
Bianca: While I commend Christina for opening the depths of her soul for "Oh Mother," I prefer the tearful emotion found on Stripped's "I'm OK." Still, this gut-wrenching ballad is an eye-opening meditation on domestic abuse and continues an important conversation. It's yet another example of the singer serving as a raw, honest voice. Rating: 6.5/10
Bianca: "Back in the Day" is a musical shout-out to Christina's influence for this throwback album, including Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Etta James and more. It has such a feel-good vibe that I can imagine our parents grooving to it in their living rooms back in the day.
Rating: 7/10 across the board
Bianca: This throwaway song typically gets a skip from me on Back to Basics because there is nothing captivating about it. At this point of the album, the throwback brass production gets a bit repetitive, and it's done better on other songs. At least she got a cute Pepsi commercial out of it? Rating: 5/10
Jeff: The majority of Disc 2 on Back to Basics felt like a cool experiment, and "Naughty Naughty Boy" was the sound of Christina trying her hand at burlesque music. The sexy romp was "Dirrty" Xtina coming out to play and is the type of track most pop divas couldn't pull off, no matter how hard they tried. Rating: 8.5/10
Bianca: Don't let the Baby Jane persona fool you: There is still some Xtina left in the diva. "Still Dirrty," the part two to 2002's "Dirrty," highlights Christina's innate feminist nature. It's a middle finger to all her haters as she sings, "If I want to wear lingerie outside of my clothes / If I want to be erotic in my own videos / If I want to be provocative, well that ain't a sin / Maybe you're not comfortable in your own skin." Rating: 7/10
Jeff: From the USMC Cadence sample at the beginning, "Candyman" automatically drew me in on first listen. This was another perfect melding of old and new as Christina brought the Andrew Sisters-esque harmonies to a modernized swing-pop beat. I wish "Candyman" was the follow-up single to "Ain't No Other Man," as it screamed late-summer jam to me, but I'm glad it performed well and produced what's arguably her best music video to date.
Also, we got to talk about that huge, high note towards the end. It's a brilliant vocal moment that Xtina has only replicated a handful of times, and it never fails to ignite a fire in my music-fan heart every time I hear it. Rating: 10/10
Mark: This may be one of the best album interludes in modern pop music history. Xtina socked it to then-super producer and estranged former collaborator, Scott Storch, like only she can. Using the titles of their past collabs to diss him? Flawless victory, tbh. My only issue is that it wasn’t a full song! Rating: 9/10
Mark: Every time I listen to “Slow Down Baby,” which is pretty often seeing as how it’s an album cut from a 10-year-old album, I get mad all over again that it wasn’t a legit single (in the U.S. anyways) off Back to Basics. Producer Mark Ronson seamlessly married samples of Gladys Knight & The Pips and Tony Yayo, mixed with his signature horns, Xtina’s sassy, sexy vocals were the icing on the cake. Here’s hoping Mark and Xtina team up again on her next project! Rating: 10/10
Jeff: While fellow Back to Basics standout "Makes Me Wanna Pray" saw Xtina exploring gospel with a modern twist, "Mercy on Me" finds her taking us all the way to church. Intense organs and stark piano lines backed one of Christina's most impressive vocal performances on record. Rating: 9/10
Bianca & Mark: 8/10
Mark: Every Christina album has at least one stand-out ballad (or more if we’re lucky!), and on Back to Basics, it’s arguably “Hurt.” I’m not sure if I love this song because it’s beautiful and haunting, or because I love showing out at karaoke when I belt it out. Linda Perry originally wrote the track about her own relationship with her father, and then Xtina tweeked the lyrics a bit to make it more universal, and finally slayed the track with some of her most impressive vocals of her discography. Even better, Christina knocked it out of the park every single time she performed the song live—and that is no easy feat. Rating: 9/10
Jeff & Bianca: 7.5/10
Mark: Many may confuse “Welcome” for a (second) intro to Disc 2 of Back to Basics, or an interlude (it only runs about two and a half minutes), but it is so much more. “Welcome” is Christina’s critique of fame, and the music biz, using a circus theme as an extremely effective metaphor. The track is comprised of dramatic live strings and was written by Linda Perry, Mark Ronson and Christina. Xtina sings, “What’s behind the smoke and glass?/Painted faces, everybody wears a mask/Are you selling them your soul?/Well you’ll be left out in the cold.” Rating: 9/10
Jeff: Just one question: Why wasn't this a full song?! I feel like Xtina had much more to say on this subject that could have led to a fascinating commentary on the state of the industry then. Rating: 10/10
Jeff: Christina's never shied away from gospel (see Stripped standout "Soar" or when she's performing Sound of Music staple "Climb Every Mountain" with a choir), but here she really found a sweet spot of making the genre work in a modern way. I always wonder if it could have been a successful single—it's that feel-good experience that's undeniable to the listener. Rating: 9/10
Mark: I always say “On Our Way” and “Without You” are the one-two punch of up-tempo soul on Back to Basics. They may not always get the attention they deserve, but true stans know this is the sound Christina shines on. The seemingly sparse production is made of higher-octave, fluttering keys (played by Christina’s longtime music director Rob Lewis) and a thumping beat, and the way it all comes together is magical. Xtina’s gorgeous falsetto runs over the piano are everything. By the way, this is yet another flawless Mark Ronson/Xtina collab. Rating: 10/10
Bianca: This song will forever be in my top five all-time favorites from Christina, and the magical piano sample from Claude Bolling's "Sentimentale" is what first drew me in. The singer is known for mastering ballads, but this one stands out thanks to the slight nod to hip-hop production and Xtina's flawlessly impassioned vocal runs. It always give me a hopeful reminder that, no matter how difficult a future relationship may be, if it's worth it I have to fight for true love. Rating: 9.5/10
Jeff: I'm actually so excited to see so many high scores for this song—I really thought I was the only one who loved this one! The looping sample is on point and that uplifting melody line that jumps form octave to octave is undeniable. Rating: 9/10
Jeff: While Disc 2 of Back to Basics was more or less Christina just flexing every vocal chord in her throat, "Save Me From Myself" was the rare time that our girl proved less could be so much more. Gone are all the belts and growls she's known for and instead is a soft, hushed approach that we'd only hear years later in her GRAMMY-winning collaboration "Say Something."
Dedicated to then-husband Jordan Bratman, the song not only showed Christina's vulnerable vocal side, but also her human side. Lines like, "Don't ask me why I'm crying / 'Cause when I start to crumble, you know how to keep me smiling" are just asking for waterworks, but you also can't help but smile at how beautiful this sublet song is. Rating: 9.5/10
Mark Sundstrom: 10/10
Bianca: What, were you expecting another song to be our No. 1 choice? Despite being 10 years old, "Ain't No Other Man" remains timeless and one of the best songs to be released by a modern pop singer to date. Its fusion of bluesy horns, jazzy vocals and the singer's profession of true love with through-the-roof vocals makes this lead single unforgettable.
Rating: 10/10 across the board
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