The Story of Pop: 2002 (Chapter 46)

This is The Story of Pop: 2002, your weekly revisit to all the biggest sights and sounds of the UK charts from two whole decades ago. This week: a teen idol relaunches by stripping off to a raunchy whole new image…

  • Artist: Christina Aguilera feat. Redman
  • Song: Dirrty
  • Released: 11/11/2002
  • Writers / Producers: Christina Aguilera / Dana Stinson / Balewa Muhammad / Reginald Noble / Jasper Cameron
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 10

If you were after the proof that 2002 was when the teen pop wave that had ruled for four years previously had finally bitten the dust, then this week’s featured hit should hopefully act as the final confirmation of this.

Since her debut with the worldwide chart topping “Genie In A Bottle” in 1999, Christina Aguilera had always been very much positioned as second-in-command to her fellow former Mouseketeer, Britney Spears. And sales and success wise, that was true for certainly the first two or three years.

But with Britney about to head off for a year’s hiatus and to record her fourth album in the autumn of 2002 (her cover of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “I Love Rock’N’Roll’ was charting as the fifth and final single from her Britney album at the time), suddenly the door was wide open for Christina to step up to the mantle. And how.

For all the success of her self titled debut album – which had produced three top 10 hits, plus a further chart topper as part of the super group on the Moulin Rouge version of “Lady Marmalade”, she had always been vocal about how she was keen to distance herself from what she dubbed the “imagery of that cookie-cutter sweetheart … That role didn’t speak to me, because it’s so boring and superficial”. Little wonder then, that for her second studio album, she was quite literally and figuratively about to strip it all back, with Stripped.

Hiring a new manager in the form of Irving Azoff, she started working on her new material and sound, taking a more active role in co-writing her material with, amongst many others, Scott Storch, Glen Ballard, Alicia Keys and Linda Perry, the former lead singer of 4 Non Blondes, who of course had been instrumental in the huge success of P!nk’s Missundaztood album that very same year.

Weighing in at a mammoth 20 tracks, Stripped was introduced to the world with a song that was to take Christina as radically far away from her teen idol image as possible. Produced by hip hop titan Rockwilder, and featuring a guest rap from Redman, “Dirrty” was a grinding, loud and promiscuous club banger about being free and sexually uninhibited: “Gonna get rowdy / Gonna get a little unruly / Get it fired up in a hurry / Wanna get dirrty / It’s about time that I came to start the party / Sweat dripping over my body / Dancing, gettin’ just a little naughty / Wanna get dirrty / It’s about time for my arrival”.

And what was on record was reflected in both the grimy promo video (directed by the legendary David LaChapelle) and performances for the single (most notably, in this country, on CD:UK, which went out at 11:30am on Saturday morning), which involved a heavily tanned and hair braided Christina twerking and gyrating around wearing little more than a bikini with leather chaps.

She was fully aware that such appearance and presentation was bound to shock and cause divided opinion. Speaking to Vogue for a recent Life In Looks video, Christina said “There’s such a rulebook that’s handed to us … and the older I got, the more I realised you’re either going to be part of the problem, or you’re gonna stand up against it and create your own story, and that’s what Stripped was about … I wanted to go against the grain, I wanted to be anti what the rulebook was. And I definitely had to take the bullets for it too.”

And she wasn’t wrong; particularly in her home country, the United States, where highly conservative attitudes from both media and audiences meant that to begin with, the Stripped album, and “Dirrty” in particular, was highly criticised and went down like a lead balloon (it bombed at #48 in the Billboard Hot 100). Here in the UK, however, it was a very different story.

Smashing in at number one with first week sales of 70,000 copies, it even surprised everyone by holding on at the top for a second week, in the process seeing off some huge new releases. However, even with this chart topping success, the Stripped album was, as we’ve seen with other similar artists in recent weeks, very much a slow burner here in the UK, only entering at #19 initially.

It was into 2003 when it really came into its own, as the second single and plaintive ballad “Beautiful” followed the first and gave her another chart topper in March, by which point the album had climbed back up the charts and peaked at #2.

Further singles from the album, including “Fighter” (#3, June), “Can’t Hold Us Down” with her old Moulin Rouge collaborator Lil’ Kim (#6, September) and “The Voice Within” (#9, December) ensured that Stripped would eventually be certified 6x platinum in the UK for sales of over 2m copies, making it the third biggest selling album of 2003. Xtina’s arrival really did silence her critics.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 2002. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2002.

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