Christina Aguilera is stripping it back. As the pop sensation preps for the release of her first studio album in six years, Liberation (out June 15), she's eager for the world to experience peak Xtina.
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"I'm happy to get back to myself as an artist," she says to me on the phone in that signature soft, sultry voice. "This is sort of a time reflective of when I came out with Stripped and with other projects recently, and I was feeling very overcommercialized and in a place where all that was hyper important--was more important than the actual meaning of my music and the artistry involved." The 37-year-old artist is in part referring to her stint on The Voice, which she's described as "a hamster wheel," telling W that "it wasn't a comfortable place for me to be, where I'm just part of a money-making machine."
Aguilera underscores this as she recalls feeling confined and isolated during that moment in her life. "Being stagnant in one place is never good for me for a certain amount of time, especially when you stop believing in your surroundings and what you're doing--and that's when it was very important for me to make this step forward with this record," she says. "I've been turned off by some elements of the business, and wanted to take it back to a place of love and honesty."
Photo by Milan Zrnic.
On the phone, while subtle, you can sense her excitement as she talks more about Liberation--especially one of her favorite tracks, "Maria." "It's the core of what I am about," she says. "I was finding my truth and sort of this peak vision of myself, which would be that little girl who was a dreamer, and just could only dream about being a singer, and being on the radio." (We all know the story the story from here: Those dreams ultimately became a reality, breaking into the scene at seven years old and finding fame with Britney Spears and co. on The Mickey Mouse Club before ascending to pop-diva domination.)
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She goes on to explain more about the meaning behind "Maria" and how it's her moment to truly get back to herself and center around why she wanted to fulfill her dreams in the first place. She mentions how the name "Maria" is not only her middle name, but also a reflection of Julie Andrews' character, Maria Von Trap, in The Sound of Music--she used to stand on top of her bed pretending she was onstage singing showtunes from the film.
"That was everything," she says. "I wanted to feel liberated again like that moment of singing on my bed, and take back my own power from an environment I thought was not right, not good, and find my truth again." Xtina believes this track, and the album as whole, will lead her further into that journey.
Photo by Luke Gilford.
Another track on the album that gets her inner fighter going is the banger, "Sick of Sittin." "The feeling I get when 'Sick of Sittin' comes on is just so badass, similar to how I felt during the Stripped days," she says, "to feel like anything goes and it's okay to just express yourself."
When she mentions Stripped and recounts this idea of "being yourself"--an underlying theme in many of Xtina's records--I personally can't help but reflect on how "Beautiful" established her as a true "gay icon." This was a pivotal moment in her career, with a meaningful message that acknowledged the beauty of queer culture in a mainstream way. She tells me that, at the end of the day, she believes in making music that means something and "not just a sing-along tune that's regurgitated on the radio."
"It's really important to me to carry on that torch and be the voice for people that feel their own personal struggles and want to be recognized. That's what you get in the chorus of 'Fall in Line' [her latest with Demi Lovato]: a statement and an anthem for people that feel that they have something to say and they've been hushed or have duct tape on their mouths." It's clear that Xtina 2018 is all about finding that truth.
As we wrap up our call, she proclaims her excitement again of being herself with this record--something she says we'll all see in person when she embarks on her tour in the fall.
"I'm approaching this tour like a new artist again, which is interesting to me," she says. "I'll be documenting it and, you know, giving fire onstage."
It's this sense of self-love, along with the voice that makes Xtina one of the most honest and stimulating pop stars of our generation.
Don't miss the 'Liberation' drop on June 15. Pre-order the album now.