A Day In LA With Christina Aguilera Getting Back To Basics

Buzz Bishop and Christina Aguilera

This is an entry from June 6, 2006 when my blog was on MySpace. Old school. I had it reposted to this site in 2008, but after a database failure wiped out my archives, I’ve gone and rescued it from the Internet Archive.

It’s a hot muggy day in L-A.

Even the normally crowded patios along the boulevards are a little tamer as people opt for the air conditioning inside. That’s rare in Los Angeles. Here, its all about the patio. The poseurs in their designer sunglasses and the touristy looky loos wandering by to see if any of the patio patrons is a celeb are standard equipment for any restaurant worth its share of sidewalk.

Regent beverly Wilshie

Image by Jose Luis RDS on Flickr

Every visit to LA I spy a star and this visit has been no different. In the few minutes I’ve been down in the lobby of the Regent Beverly Wilshire waiting to interview Christina Aguilera, I’ve spotted Mean Girl Lacey Chabert and Bow Wow headed in and out of the lobby lunch spot, The Blvd.

Was that Orlando Bloom dining solo in a cafe on Rodeo?? Maybe, if he still has his black curly locks and goatee hes been sporting in the Pirates of the Caribbean 2 posters.

After touching down at LAX this morning I had to grab a cab to the hotel. Trying to get a cab in L-A – is impossible. New York, with its dense mass of skyscrapers was built for taxis, but L-A, with its freeways spread across the southlands with barely a 10 story building to be seen, is a car town. Everyone here has their own car and if they’re visiting, they rent.

So after standing with other no-car fools in a queue with no cabs, I ended up 20 mins late to the presser where a few dozen other journos were already 5 songs into a preview listen of Christina’s new cd, Back to Basics.

Everyone was deathly silent during the listening session, huddled over note pads and scribbling. It was almost like we were bizarre contestants for a reality show and we didn’t want the rest of the competition knowing our secret strategy.

I was guilty of it too. As we listened along I would jot notes about each track, judiciously covering up my paper like I had just plucked the perfect answer for a final exam.

Christina Aguilera back to basics

Basics, it’s not even released for another 2 months and I’m already resorting to shorthand, is an ambitious 24 song effort and I only caught the tale end of Nasty Naughty Boy before being treated to I’m In Trouble, Hurt, Thank You and Slow Down Baby. Of all those tracks only Hurt sounds like the Christina you’re used to. It’s a big power ballad along the lines of Beautiful but instead of uplifting and comforting lyrics, this one sounds like a deathbed plea for forgiveness.

Nasty Naughty Boy is a burlesque-y romp where Christina begs her man to put his icing on her cake. She then quickly takes it back with Slow Down Baby, a song for those who think they’re getting a piece of said cake but are sadly mistaken, cause she’s taken.

In Trouble is a track your grandma will enjoy with the snap crackle and pops of old vinyl, horns youd hear on a Mississippi Riverboat and a breathy Christina sounding miles away, buried in the mix like a lounge singer struggling to be heard over a packed house.

Camping With Kids Near Calgary
Pray will make you think you’re walking by a basement church in Harlem on a sweet summer Sunday. That, and you’ll be humming the different song with the same title by MC Hammer in the back of your mind itching for a mash-up to be done.

Back to Basics, her third disc and first in almost 4 years, is a concept album that goes in a few different directions. Some songs will sound familiar to Stripped, but inspired by Linda Perry’s vast record collection and DJ Premier’s mashing of new and vintage beats, Christina also takes fans down an unfamiliar road, one laced with burlesque, horns, smoke, jazz and blues. But it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that shes finally done this, Christina has been talking about her love of standards and blues and jazz since her first interviews for Genie In a Bottle 7 years ago.

She calls the likes of Ella and Etta her “fun music” from when she was a child, and judging by the fierce pace of the debut single, Ain’t No Other Man, were gonna find it fun too.

Some of the songs have the same sort of “feel” that Madonna’s Dick Tracy inspired I’m Breathless held, but where Madge was kitschy doing straight ahead songs from the era, Christina is more “inspired” by the era, mixing old horns with heavy beats and therefore ends up with a much more current sounding set.

I am squeezed in for this interview on Canadian tv day. There is no other radio here at the hotel, just me and Rick Campanelli from E-T Canada, that guy with the thinning 80s hair and George Michael stubble beard from eTalk and Hannah from MuchMusic. I hear MusiquePlus and MTV are here, but I dont see them.

I am here to do a World Album Premier special to air across Canada in August when the disc comes out. My 20 min interview was chopped to 15 and when I walk in the door the assistant tells me I now have 12 mins.

Are you kidding me?

I wanna ask her about all the charities she supports and the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father. I wanna ask her how the song Oh Mother makes her feel. I wanna ask her what the mood was like in the studio for different songs, how does she get ready for upbeat songs versus the melancholy ballads. I wanna ask her about the music for the new album, where the samples came from and where the inspiration for the original pieces came from.

I wanna ask her about her new look, shocking blonde hair and thick red lips and nails. I wanna ask her about this supposed demure image she was going to bring to the table as a married woman. Shes naked in every single photo in GQ and there’s talk she might be knocking on Hefs door, but the husband doesn’t want her to do it ..

All that doesn’t get brought up. As were getting set up the assistant tells me not to ask about Mariah. Why would I?

The Mariah thing appears in the tail end of her GQ interview and has kinda blown up in her face. I know the tabloid shows are gunning for her reaction, but for an album premier, I’m focused on the music and my stupid 12 minute time limit.

Since I’m on a tv day, Christina and I are in directors chairs with 2 cameras, one locked on me and one focused on her. We have tv microphones and I can’t get a straight audio feed. For the radio show, were going to have to play back the video and record the audio from the video tapes to edit. It’s all rather odd, but the video is also going to be streamed on the Iceberg network and radio station websites across the country, so you’ll get to see what a bumbling fool I was and how ugly radio people are when they do interviews.

Rick was there in a suit and tie, had is makeup and hair done. I just strolled up in a Polo shirt and jeans and a sweaty, ruffled brow.

12 minutes after asking all about her new husband, Jordan, and his inspiration for the disc and the happy place she is in life and the dangers of doing a jazz-ish album when the purist haters will chase you down, its over.

I have no idea what I asked or what she said. It went by so fast. The best part is I had 4 pages of chicken scratch notes and I only scrambled through them once, the rest of it was a natural and easy Q&A.

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