Christina Aguilera launched her career in the late 1990s as one of the leading acts of the Pop music revival. Armed with a voice that was often compared to divas Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, she quickly rose to prominence as one of the few artists of that new generation who could actually sing. Yet, more than a decade later, Aguilera has lost her footing on the charts.
Unlike Britney Spears – to whom she has been compared since the the very beginning of recording career – Aguilera completely revamped her sound and image with every project by experimenting with a range of genres. However, despite receiving critical acclaim for her risky artistic ventures, Aguilera’s quests for constant reinvention has resulted in a major problem.
Every Aguilera album was vastly different from its predecessor and this caused continuous shifts in her fanbase as each new release alienated those persons who supported her previous projects. For instance, ‘Stripped’ – arguably her best work – was a gritty mix of Hip-Pop, R&B and Soft Rock that garnered her support across the spectrum and even on the Urban formats. On the other hand, Aguilera’s ‘Back to Basics’ album was clearly targeting the Adult Contemporary/Pop market and she ignored those persons who enjoyed her earlier material.
Furthermore, ‘Bionic’ was yet another new direction for Aguilera and although it entailed multiple ballads that could have worked on Adult Contemporary radio, the club-geared ‘Not Myself Tonight’ and its accompanying video ruined any chances for the buyers in that market to be interested in hearing the rest of the LP. Add that to her media-fueled feud with Lady Gaga that deterred her younger fans, and ‘Bionic’ was doomed to fail.
So, how is it that acts such as Madonna have continuously reinvented themselves without losing support from their core audiences but Aguilera could not manage to do the same? The answer is quite obvious: Aguilera does not have a core audience.
Yes, Aguilera does indeed have a gang loyal fans who endorse her talent and linger on the blogs to attack anyone who dares to question her decisions – feel free to read the comments made by Xtina Disciple on previous posts on this site – but their numbers not large enough to ensure that her albums would at least achieve gold status. Indeed, Aguilera simply did not spend enough time cultivating a core audience within a specific market before she branched out into different fields. Really, she did too much too soon.
Additionally, each phase of Aguilera’s career has been vastly different and she did not make gradual shifts in her sound that would have allowed her fans to adjust. Instead, she basically abandoned each group as she furthered her quest for artistic growth. Analogy alert: do you remember that episode of ‘Rugrats’ when Tommy’s mother abruptly took away his milk bottle and gave him a juice cup?
Ultimately, Aguilera has built a career similar to that metaphoric castle on shifting sands without forming a proper foundation. Luckily, though, she is still young enough to redirect her efforts into rectifying the situation. Besides, with her talent and resources, Aguilera could easily craft material to corner almost any market without relying on the gimmicks that her peers so desperately need.
I personally suggest that Aguilera should focus her attention on the Adult Contemporary audience because those individuals actually buy albums. Plus, she could get as big as a house and nobody would care as long as she doesn’t sound as though her vocal cords are trapped underneath one.