Public service announcement: Christina Aguilera is a feminist icon.
In 2017, many may sum up the career of this musical legend to her stint as a judge on The Voice, or her infamous flub of the National Anthem. Some people might know her hits, such as Genie in A Bottle and Beautiful. But many don’t know that Xtina was setting the stage for women empowerment way before it became the popular trend in pop music.
Aguilera dropped her second album Stripped in 2002, during an age in which young pop stars such as she and Britney Spears were pit against each other, and male artists like Eminem ridiculed them. To put it plainly, if you were a blonde pop star, you were deemed less than. So, Aguilera dyed her natural, blonde hair black, pierced her nose and lip, and released an album that was a personal statement from a young woman ready to break free from media-produced constraints.
At the time, all people saw was the risqué singer and former teen star writhing around in dirty water.
But from Stripped, Christina was also dropping feminist gems like “Can’t Hold us Down,” an iconic song about the double standards between women and men.
It was Christina tackling the issues of abuse and double standards, while taking the sexuality of women in music and turning the notion right on its head. The album also featured Aguilera’s signature song “Beautiful” which she performed at the Grammys in a pants suit, accompanied with a choir. The performance is so prominent, that it’s even featured in Mean Girls during Damien’s talent show number.
The album is also home to what I admit is my favorite song, “Fighter,” a gut-punching rock song in which Christina states:
Even in the worse circumstances, Aguilera told young women that they had the power to take their pain and grow from it.
Aguilera’s third album, Back to Basics, is arguably one of her most popular albums to date. Some of the album’s “deep cuts,” songs not released as singles, carried over the same feminist sentiments from Stripped.
In fact, the song “Still Dirrty” (two r’s because it’s dirtier, according to Aguilera) is a continuation of the debut single from her previous album. At the time, Christina was married, and explained that although she appeared clean cut, she still had the “nasty” in her.
She chronicled her mother’s journey in an abusive relationship, which ultimately ended when her mother left Aguilera’s father, in the song “Oh Mother.” Unlike Aguilera’s previous work on the subject, where she can be heard crying on the track, “Oh Mother” has a triumphant and resilient undertone as she thanks her mother for getting them out of their environment.
All of these songs and moments— which really just scratch the surface on Aguilera’s contribution—happened before 2007, over ten years ago. Before Beyoncé said girls ran the world, and told us we were flawless. And WAY before Taylor Swift wrote op-ed pieces on the role of women in music. Aguilera continues to spread that message on her subsequent albums and in other professional endeavors-like when she called out a The Voice contestant for performing the song “99 Problems,” which she said was “derogatory.”
It’s ironic that Aguilera has been a quiet storm in the conversation of feminism, given her insane vocal gymnastics. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t tweet about the patriarchy every day, or maybe it’s because she just doesn’t hang around in the limelight like she used to.
That’s not to say that other artists who are vocal now, were not vocal prior to the insurgence of widespread celebrity support of women’s rights. But seriously, feminism and being a woman has been imperative to the legacy of Ms. Aguilera in a way women’s issues haven’t been for other artists.