She’s back to Latin music after 22 years and is here to stay.
When I first got in Christina Aguilera’s music, it was actually the album “Bionic”. I was around 11–12 years old and Christina was in her 30s, coming back after giving birth to her son Max Liron Bratman with a raunchy and sex-kitty image. I was intrigued by the idea that a woman could pull off that vocal over the futuristic genre of music. I admired Christina not only for her mastermind when it comes to creativity and music but also for her brave heart. She did not hesitate to share about her struggling childhood, to stand up for the LGBTQ+ community when there was still discrimination and prejudice on mainstream media, to be ahead of her time, releasing a body of work that only 10 years later, people started to treasure it. Every time Christina comes back with some new music project, there is something in me that I know for sure that will turn out to be different than the previous ones, as she was not scared to implement changes and innovations, to dodge away from what is hot and trending, to do the things that she truly feels comfortable with. In 2001, at the very beginning of her career, Christina Aguilera connected to her Latina root (her father is Ecuadorian) by releasing “Mi Reflejo”, a Latin Grammy-winning album consisting of Spanish versions of “Genie In a Bottle”, “What a Girl Wants”, all the hits from her debut album, along with original songs and covers. Christina’s ranging vocals over the crispy and mellow sounds of the guitar surprisingly intertwine and empower each other. I remember when I first listened to that album, I was hooked with the salsa dance over the tropical Latin sounds of “Falsas Esperanzas”. Although I did not understand the lyrics back then, I tried to learn the lyrics. That was my first Spanish song, making room for Latin music and Spanish-written songs, a special room in my heart.
In 2019, I spent a couple of months in Madrid, Spain, connecting more with the Spanish language. I remember struggling to order ice cream with my broken Spanish and ended up speaking English with ease. It was a beautiful language that I wish I could have time to embrace more. But most importantly, through my love for Spanish music, I got to connect with the culture and especially the pop culture. ROSALÍA was the introduction to Spanish pop for me when she infused mainstream pop and urban sounds into traditional flamenco music. Her mellow voice singing the poetic lyrics makes me fall in love all over again. Spanish pop music had not been noticed until the release of her second record “El Mal Querer”. Then I got introduced to reggaeton — a genre that I tend to avoid as I found it generic and way too mainstream, with Latin hip-hop sounds from Bad Bunny, Tainy, Karol G, Bad Gyal, and many more. Many Latina artists who started their career with English music, now finally connected with their roots and put out records in Spanish like Selena Gomez, Becky G, or Camila Cabello. I remember a Stan Twitter tweet mentioned: “They started to sing in Spanish when they flopped” under a thread about Aguilera’s new release. Uneducated or maybe they are just young? Because Aguilera has sung in Spanish way before it was a trend, with “Mi Reflejo”.
Now after 22 years of ups and downs, success and lows, Christina Aguilera put out “La Fuerza” — a 6-track EP just to prove that she is here, and here to stay. When you visit Aguilera’s website, the main tagline said “Redescubriendo Raíces” (Finding My Roots), and her initiative for naming the first EP “La Fuerza” (The Force/The Strength) is because the natural force that she has been succumbing through years working in music and creativity. It is not only a homage to her Latin roots but also an inspirational work that is, in Aguilera’s fashion, experimental, interesting, powerful, and passionate.
Aguilera kicks off “La Fuerza” with a full-on statement in “Ya Llegué”, she sings, “You’re asking for me, I’m here, I’m here”. After 22 years of waiting, her Latin fans (and all of the Fighters in general), finally get down to their couch and listen to Aguilera’s thick and powerful voice in Spanish all over them again. It is the nostalgic feeling when she sampled her first hit “Genie In a Bottle”, but most importantly, it is the overwhelming exhilaration when Aguilera does not have to show off her range in this track, but we can totally feel the power in every second. Her confirmation of existence and “resurrection” resonate with the idea of her previous record “Liberation”. She has truly found herself, being in a state of mind that she can put her head up and do whatever she wants in life and music. She reconnects and tributes to her fans through every word. The production of “Ya Llegué” is a blend of the crisp, futuristic sound that reminds us of R&B/hip-hop tracks curated by Bad Bunny in “Ignorantes”. The song transitions to the familiar rhythms of reggaeton, in which her vocal soars through the melody: “I have the cure between these curves/For the madness that you can’t take it anymore”. Aguilera understands the anticipation and with all her creativity, she finally “give the gays what they want”.
The next two singles “Pa Mis Muchachas” and “Somos Nada” become oppositional in terms of musical and lyrical direction. If “Pa Mis Muchachas” is the Latina version of “Lady Marmalade” to pay tribute to modern women, passing down the empowerment through generations, “Somos Nada” depicts a heartbroken story that lingers deep in our hearts. Aguilera can show off what she does best: full-range vocal, while managing to retain the emotions, especially to those who do not fully understand the language. “Pa Mis Muchachas” is a guaracha. Nobody has thought guaracha could be this *lit* after the song. Collaborated with Nathy Peluso, Becky G, and Nicki Nicole, “Pa Mis Muchachas” is a perfect combination of four female powerhouses, in which each songstress has enough room to bring their signature sounds, supporting Aguilera’s essence. “Somos Nada” is another addition to her ballad discography, in which she delivers a sob-worthy performance for the broken-hearted: “Although the pain suffocates me/I don’t lose faith in love/We are the flowers born from the mud/We are nothing, we are everything”.
Aguilera has many times complimented ROSALÍA for being able to connect the old and the new, in which ROSALÍA and her producer El Guincho integrates flamenco — one of the oldest, most traditional Spanish sounds — to electronic, PC music and reggaeton. “Como Yo” is a track that when I listened to it for the first time, I was like, is this something ROSALÍA would do? It has the fun and breathy sounds of “Con Altura” and “Aute Culture”, at the same time, Aguilera brings out her coloratura to R&B and reggaeton sounds. It is something that I would love to dance to if it is a dance party, in a club, or even in the small space of my bedroom. The stomping beats and Arca-influenced distorted sounds of “Como Yo” did not overshadow Aguilera’s sexy rapping and finally her signature-ranging voice. Preceding “Como Yo” is the Ozuna-assisted track “Santo”, which is perceived to be the least experimental sound of the whole EP. The thumping beats, reggaeton rhythms, and the combination of Aguilera & Ozuna vocals make “Santo” an instant hit. We might see Christina Aguilera on the chart again with this radio-friendly and club-friendly dance anthem.
“La Fuerza” closes with “La Reina”, an homage to “El Rey” by Vicente Fernández, but with a female perspective, like what Aguilera has been doing for almost every single moment of her career. If Fernández sings “I know well that I’m out/But the day that I die/I know you’ll have to cry/You will say that you did not love me, but you will be very sad”. A patriarchal and male-driven storyline was switched up with the feminine touch by Aguilera and her team in “La Reina”: “I cried and cried, and I swear I will not be sad by a man anymore”. Christina Aguilera’s sultry and raspy vocals go along with the mariachi melody, driven by the string sounds of the guitar. “La Reina” reminds me of telenovela music and live performances, the charro tradition, and the classics by Aida Cuevas, Lupita Infante or Lola Beltrán. Aguilera truly understood the assignment, singing from a feminine yet powerful narrative, a true Fighter-spirited ranchera response to “El Rey” with deep emotions and powerful breakthroughs. “La Reina” is definitely going to be a fan (and critic)-favorite among all the tracks in the EP.
After 22 years, it has become a sudden fear that Christina Aguilera might fall off the thin line and go along with the reggaeton sounds that have been fading in Latin music specifically, and in the whole scene in general. But with “La Fuerza”, Aguilera once again has proved what she said in the press conference: “I’ll never stop being an Aguilera no matter what happens, what’s hot and trending. This is me and this is who I am”. A powerful mind is driven with a passion for music and experimentation, a chameleon who does not scare to think out of the box. “La Fuerza” is not only her journey back to her Latina roots, but also the bridge between the current flow of Latin music with what used to be kept in the past vault.
I am excited for the upcoming installments.
Listen to Christina Aguilera’s “La Fuerza”: