Whatever happened to Baby Jane? Turns out she’s the latest character channeled by Christina Aguilera on Back to Basics, the Grammy-winning pop diva’s ambitious double album out Aug. 15 on RCA Records. With producers such as Linda Perry — with whom she collaborated on 2002’s Stripped — and DJ Premier, the artist formerly known as Xtina pays homage to the vintage blues, jazz, and soul she fell in love with as a child. Although filled with love songs inspired by longtime beau and new husband Jordan Bratman — including the rousing first single “Ain’t No Other Man” — Aguilera’s third studio release proves she can still get nasty. The 26-year-old GLAAD honoree, vocal AIDS activist, and ex-Mousekeeter dished us all the dirrt on her new look, her favorite gays, and that bogus beef with Britney.
By Brandon Voss
HX: You took a lot of crap for “Dirrty,” girl, but I hope you know the gays totally had your back on that one.
Christina Aguilera: [Laughs] I know, it’s great! It’s funny sometimes, people’s conservative viewpoints on sexuality. What are we, a bunch of 70-year-olds? But at least I know the gay community supports an open mind on that.
When did you become aware of your huge gay following?
When I did my video for “Beautiful” and it had a visual of two gay men kissing, which I thought was important because “Beautiful” was about going against the grain and just being proud of who you are. The feedback was incredible. That’s when I knew that they got who I am.
Are there a lot of gays in your life?
Absolutely! A couple of back-up dancers — they give great energy on my videos — my hair and makeup team. And my best friend Steve. He tours with me on the road and we just have a blast together. He was in my wedding party — the only guy on the bridesmaid’s side!
Lance Bass’ coming out. Let’s discuss.
I’m shocked that it’s a big deal! I’m shocked that people are shocked. When I heard of it, I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Good for him!”
Might you be a bit bisexual yourself?
I’m not into labels whatsoever, but I do think the female body is beautiful, and sometimes I get more pleasure looking at a nude female body than a male’s, depending on who that is. It’s a very sensual thing, the female body, and I have an appreciation for it.
Some fans are worried that you’re getting all wholesome on our asses.
Completely not! While I was still recording the record, I’d open up a tabloid and see a cute picture of Jordan and I, but the headline would read “From Crass to Class” — or whatever their stupid clichés are. I was so turned off by that. As if I would ever change who I am for anyone, let alone a man in my life! So I wrote a song on my new album called “Still Dirrty,” just letting people know that I haven’t changed. Sexuality will always be a part of what I do, because it’s part of who I am as a woman, and I enjoy expressing that in a very empowering way. By no means do I ever feel objectified or put myself in an uncomfortable situation.
What’s up with the new retro look?
It reflects where I’m at musically. I’m a very visual artist, so it’s about creating this whole package that really takes people back in time to the era where you had those amazing screen sirens — your Jean Harlows, your Marlene Dietrichs, Marilyn, Veronica Lake. They knew how to beat their face! I love watching the old movies and getting into that whole world of old Hollywood glam.
What appeals to you about the music from that era?
When I pop in an old record from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s — a Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughn or Pearl Bailey — these songs just speak to me as being so real. There’s a deep grittiness on these records — even the grainy imperfections are so beautiful. Also, there was a lot of turmoil in my house, with the abuse and whatnot, from the time I was born until about six or seven when my mom finally left my dad, so at a really young age I connected with the pain that comes across with old blues and soul music. There’s a lot of hurt in it, a lot of angst, a lot of raw emotion.
Has “Xtina” been officially retired?
I thought that was a cute nickname for the last record, but now the character for this record is “Baby Jane,” which is also a throwback to old Hollywood movies.
Have all those piercings closed up?
Yeah, just different time, different place, emotionally. They used to comfort me on the last record. It was exciting to get them, and it was kind of rewarding for me, but I’m not in that space in my life where they comfort me at all. I have other ways of comforting myself now.
It’s thoughtful of you to give drag impersonators so many looks to choose from. What do they need to best capture your essence?
Red lipstick, of course, and great lashes! Go buy my new album and get into it as you’re putting on your face! [Laughs] There are many different looks and still many more places to go. For the next album it will be something completely different.
Another blonde bombshell drops her album a week after yours — Paris Hilton. Up for a little competition?
[Laughs] It’s fine! There’s always going to be other records and other singers out there, and years from now I’m sure there’ll be the next Christina Aguilera coming up. I welcome it. Even though we do very different things, Paris and I, I think it’s great that she goes for what she wants. I’ve gotta give anyone credit for that.
How does it feel when journalists pit you against Britney Spears, especially when they say that you’ve come out on top and that Britney’s a hot mess?
I think it’s unfair to both of us, but it’s part of the business. As soon as we got on the scene, people saw blonde hair and navels and compared us. But I knew that eventually our bodies of work would differ. I think that she’s in a beautiful time in her life right now — she’s a mother, and I think it’s great. I’ve known her for a very, very long time, since we were on The New Mickey Mouse Club. Same with Justin [Timberlake]. It’s nice to grow up and see where all of our paths go. I don’t get involved in the negativity. I just try to focus, stick to my own game plan, and keep on chugging along.
Will you ever pull out the chaps again?
[Laughs] When I’m 50 years old, hopefully I’ll still be able to get those suckers on.
HX, August 2006.