Christina Aguilera — “Ain’t No Other Man”

Released: 6.3.06

Peak: #6

The more Christina Aguilera strives to mature as an artist, the more childlike she seems. Twenty-five and married when she cut “Ain’t No Other Man,” Aguilera nonetheless explodes with the naive enthusiasm of a teenage girl imagining how an orgasm will someday feel. And not self-consciously so either—that big bluesy growl lets you know that the silly thing imagines she’s acting all grown up. And that lack of awareness masquerading as emotional intensity has always been an essential element of her appeal to the NARAS elders who anointed her the “talented,” long-term Britney-alternative back when such questions were still pertinent.

And so, the rebellious spell of “being herself” on Stripped, complete with Pussycat Dolls fling and dyed hair, was as brief as it was predictable. Aguilera snapped back to the fold with a Mercedes commercial, a Herbie Hancock duet, and Back to Basics, an excuse to play dress up, in wardrobe and vocal affectation alike, disguised as an artistic challenge. To gauge just the depth of Aguilera’s appreciation for the culture she celebrates, note how “Back in the Day” rolls into a giant ball of Music everything that black people recorded before Christina’s birth. The egregious rotogravure-pop of “Candyman” alone was enough to make me forgive I’m Breathless after all these years—at least Madonna was in on the joke.

And yet, “Ain’t No Other Man” helps me understand why Irving Azoff does dote so on the girl. DJ Premier’s track simulates funk the way Christina simulates soul, binding the loose bounce of its source material, Dave Cortez’s “Happy Soul,” so that it pops with maximum efficiency. And Christina’s naivety is her strength–not her awareness of the past, but her obliviousness to it, rings through in her voice. To top it off, I’m amused rather than offended by reports that Aguilera lent Primo Al Green and Aretha discs to listen to for inspiration. Adorable, no?

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