CHRISTINA GOES VEGAS
CHRISTINA AGUILERA ON HER LIFE, CAREER AND HER VEGAS ADVENTURE
Once upon a time there was “a little girl with a big voice.” The girl grew into a beautiful lady with a singing voice that could send chills up your spine. It was one of those magic moments where looks and talent collide into a unique combination set to create its own path in the music world. Enter… Christina Aguilera. Rave reviews. Chart-topping songs. An unprecedented vocal range of four octaves. Simply put: a pop phenomenon.
At London Fashion Week 2020, the face of Christina in its full glam is printed on a lavish Bobby Abley cape design. This is not a random choice. Always on the lookout for new challenges, Christina collaborated with the up-and-coming designer to work on her American The Xperience tour. The tour is the latest stop in a journey that starts as teen pop star sensation and ends in the stratospheric world of superstardom.
Drawn to the soul and blues record collection of her grandmother, Christina’s singing did, in fact, earn her the early reputation as "the little girl with the big voice.” Her first career break was at the tender age of 13 on The Mickey Mouse Club, Disney’s “boot camp” for future pop stars. And while she made a sensation as a teen idol and pop star, she would later break free and prove she was much more than that. From vintage jazz, blues, and soul to R&B music, the unique Aguilera music style proved to be a winning combination.
Her strong artistic personality meant she would early on transcend the teen idol bubblegum qualities of innocence and create her own path. In full artistic control of her work, she released her milestone track “Dirrty.” It was the first glimpse into her newly found sexually emancipated persona and the first in a series of artistic reinventions that were to follow.
Aguilera swiftly generated controversy. Her empowering lyrics were immediately talked about in the press and loved by her fans. A true advocate of beauty and uniqueness in every form, she released her song “Beautiful.” With its strong, empowering lyrics it became an anthem for the LGBTQ community. “Bionic” was a digital ode to modern feminism seen through female sexual emancipation that invited women to be liberated from social conventions. “Can't Hold Us Down" from Stripped denounces gender-related double standards, in which men are applauded for their sexual behaviors, while women who behave in a similar fashion, are not.
An iconic 21st century female pop performer comfortable expressing sexuality, Christina is finally being herself. She constantly reinvents her image and takes artistic control of it. An image strongly inspired by figures of the Classic Hollywood era such as Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard, Greta Garbo, and Veronica Lake. Her alter ego, Baby Jane, is also a cinematic reference and a tribute to the iconic thriller film, “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” She also credits Madonna and Janet Jackson as two of the biggest inspirations for her image. “Being reinventive, strong females, to explore whatever, and being brave even if they do get bad press. It's just like they were fearless,” Christina said of them. Her look is also inspired by her Burlesque co-star, Cher: "I have always had tremendous respect for her. She is a woman who did everything before anyone else did it. She is an icon and she inspired me throughout my career.”
Christina loves fashion. Her tour costumes are designed by the top designers in the game: Jean-Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler, and Vivienne Westwood. Her appearances during New York Fashion Week dressed in Dilara Findikoglu, Gareth Pugh, and Westwood, or wearing emerging designers such as Kaimin and Alice Jardesten made a sensation. This newly found fashion icon status didn’t go unnoticed. Aguilera had already collaborated with top fashion photographers and graced the covers of all major fashion magazines such as Vogue and W.
Her Las Vegas costumes are more impressive than ever. The show is a groundbreaking series of separate acts where the audience can see, hear, and even smell (yes, smell) what is happening on stage. Every act is a door to an autonomous world of distinctive scents, colors, textures, and outlandish costumes designed by Hollywood stylist Karen Clarkson. Always pushing boundaries, Christina swapped the music concert for an interactive experience for all senses. “I wanted people to not just see a concert, but really feel immersed in the world itself — whether it’s tasting, smelling, touching, or feeling. We used a lot of different scents and fragrances to bring to life different video aspects, like fire and earth elements, that make you feel like you’re engulfed in the atmosphere,” she notes. The success was so huge, she has scheduled a second Las Vegas residency, including a New Year’s Eve celebration. After all, art is about experience — something Christina Aguilera knows best.
Tell us about your Las Vegas Xperience show. It has a very innovative concept: You include stunning visuals and even smells.
I describe it as a five-sense submersion into the world of imagination. I really wanted to allow the audience to have their own interpretation and their sense of escape into this world, where they can just be themselves and be free for just one night. We wear so many masks in everyday life. We become who our friends and our relatives want us to be. In the show we encourage everyone to enter an alternate universe where they can be themselves in an authentic way. There is a lot of encouragement into finding your own truth, speaking your own truth. This being Vegas by way of Southern California, it’s an amazing ride where you can really venture into different cultures. Also, in Vegas I am able to enjoy staying in the same place and really use the venue to our fullest of imagination. I also wanted to involve smell. I want people to actually be there smelling, feeling, even tasting at certain points. I don’t want to give too much away but I really wanted to create a special place where people could go, use all their senses and just be themselves.
The show’s costumes are also incredible. You wear Gareth Pugh and Edwin Mohney. What is the concept behind the costume selection?
I think it’s really important to work with designers who inspire you on a different level. They need to have the sensibility to not only create fashionable pieces but pieces that the performer can change quickly during a live show or add different aspects and layers. For the opening outfit of the Vegas show I wear several layers that I take off during the set of songs. The outfit keeps evolving. Being a designer who knows performance and show costumes is a talent itself. The importance of changes is crucial so there is a lot of conversation process with the designer.
You are the muse for both established and upcoming fashion designers. Do you express yourself through fashion?
Fashion is a big part of my creativity and expression. I am constantly inspired by new looks and aesthetics. Meeting new designers is also important. Bobby Abley’s shows have a lot of references to my albums. Even outfits I have been criticized for are now coming back in the spotlight or being reinvented. It’s an amazing experience to look back at your career and see all the different stories you told within the music. Clothes can make you see who you are now and where you came from. You can speak your truth through clothes. That is exactly what I love in fashion; the elements of play and reinvention.
7Hollywood magazine is about Hollywood talent and glamour. You have also channeled this style in your “Ain’t No Other Man” and “Hurt” videos. Do you feel related to the glam of the era?
In “Hurt,” “Ain’t No Other Man,” and “Candyman,” I impersonated a number of characters related to this era. In fact, the whole record was a throwback to soul, jazz, and the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s. I took the aesthetics of the era, the glam approach of the movie stars, the red lipstick and the hair. Floria Sigismondi, who did the “Hurt” video, interpreted the circus style in a glam/old school way in a beautiful video. In my work, everything has its own fashion sense, specific feel, and intention behind the music.
What gives you energy to do more than one show during your Vegas residency and sound so very fresh?
Every night is different. I interpret the vocals stylistically different every single night, depending on my mood and the energy I get from the people. I am a very raw performer. I live in the moment. My fans are really pushing though my energy on the more tired days and making me free because of the energy I am taking and wanting to give it back. Also, each song has a different mood. The stage has always been my home since I was 7 years old. There are no rules, no format, nothing fake about it. It’s the place I can be raw and authentically myself. Hearing my fans’ stories backstage in between the shows or at the meet-and-greet is also inspiring for me and keeps it authentic every single night.
“Haunted Heart” is your most recent single for the new Addams Family film. Where did you get inspired for it?
I am a die-hard Addams Family fan since I was a kid. My mother loved the old black-and-white TV shows. My son also likes it and we even had a piece of artwork in our house inspired by The Addams Family. I like the creepy and lighthearted feeling of it. Being from a household that appreciates a little spookiness, I knew I had to put my voice on the song. It’s also a kind of throwback for me. I worked with DJ Premier and we referenced some of my oldest songs in it while being inspired by artists such as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Amy Winehouse. It was such a fun time for me.
You recently celebrated 20 years since “Genie in a Bottle,” and yet you sound so new. What is the secret of always being relevant and innovating?
Staying inspired is easy to me as I am constantly inspired by so much: people I come across, my kids, and artists I collaborate with. The ultimate purpose of being a great artist and human is being fearless of change, and constantly driving for growth within yourself. I have also come to appreciate the maturity of age and growth. I am more assured with myself and my vocals. I also play around more on stage and am very movie inspired. For the opening of my Vegas show, I collaborated with a Marvel score writer. And what’s a better way to start my show than a true movie score to get you into the mood?
You are one of the first female pop artists to open up the conversation on embracing sensuality with “Dirrty.” Tell us some more about it.
That was definitely a coming-of-age point in my life. The album was called “Stripped” for a reason, and I was truly stripping everything I felt in entering the business. As grateful as I am for my debut album, I just didn’t feel the material in it was authentically me. “Stripped” was an honest record. It actually created my fan base called Fighters and has withstood the test of time. “Dirrty” was just an in-your-face kind of way of saying this is me unapologetically; a woman being able to embrace herself and her sexuality. This album actually opened conversations about beauty, vulnerability and the idea that it is okay to have imperfections. Experience and hardships make you stronger and helps you built character. I was not going to comply with anyone’s standards — and I have never to this day.
Tell us about your relationship with social media.
I am a very private person. I also come from an era without social media and you were raised with celebrities keeping the mystery. It’s a very weird thing to see things change in front of your eyes. Still I understand that social media is a form to get your voice across. I recently started social media to get my voice heard and promote my team’s work. I think you can make it honest and true. I am really into authenticity in my work and life. Social media is for me another way to speak out about issues that are important such as domestic violence and being true to oneself.
You like to collaborate with artists from different genres, from R&B to pop and even soul. What are the collaborations you favor the most?
I am very much into collaborating. I am inspired by people that are buzzing creative energy, be it a producer, a musician or a writer, and love diving into a project. They make me a better artist. I enjoyed some great collaborations with other artists. For example, I loved sharing the stage with Mick Jagger; his energy was electric and akin to a true legend. Another great moment was my photo shoot with my all-time favorite artist, Etta James. We ended up singing together at the piano. I also performed a song at her funeral, which was extremely difficult. That was a rare moment in my career, and I am grateful for it. Also, writing with Sia for the Bionic record and sharing her electricity and creativity was another collaboration that inspired me — and kept me entertained at the same time. I was literally blown away!
Your vocal range and singing abilities are phenomenal. How do you feel when they credit you the title of the “best voice in modern pop?”
It’s always an honor to get such positivity and amazing compliments about the passion and essence of what I feel is my mission in life. I truly feel and hope this comes from people appreciating the honesty. I have always been open about of my childhood being chaotic and I believe this was the energy that gravitated me towards loving soul and blues; they derive from pain and emotion. For example, you can hear the pain and depth in Nina Simone’s voice. Vocal acrobatics or range don’t actually mean a lot for me. I sing from the heart and guts.
You look completely transformed in your 7Hollywood photo shoot directed by Alix Malka. How was the experience? Did you enjoy wearing the latest couture designs?
Working with Alix is always effortless and easy. We share a connection, and he isn’t afraid to go dark or mysterious. It’s not cookie cutter, and sometimes this scares people, but I do have a dark side in me and love experimenting with it. We worked together in the photography for Bionic, and I am very proud of the photos we got. It’s always fun to work with true artists that truly get you. We brought couture designs from Paris, and I really enjoyed modeling the looks. It’s a matter of being open with the team you are working with, hearing their opinion, and make every project an opportunity to reinvent yourself.