August 21, 2006 12:00 PM

Back to Basics


So here I stand today/ In tribute I do pay/ To those before me who laid it down and paved the way.” So sings Christina Aguilera in the intro of her third studio album, on which she invokes such soul, jazz and blues trailblazers as Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday and Etta James. For a good part of this ambitious double disc, the Grammy-winning diva succeeds in fusing classic and contemporary sounds into something wholly fresh. Disc 1 is the real winner, a crafty mélange of hip-hop beats and retro R&B with old-school samples ranging from B.B. King to Gladys Knight and the Pips. DJ Premier, of the ’90s jazz-rap duo Gang Starr, produced five tracks, including the hit “Ain’t No Other Man,” a fierce funk workout that showcases Aguilera at her belting best. Things fall off on the more pop-oriented Disc 2, though. While the Andrews Sisters-style “Candyman” is swinging fun, the overblown ballad “The Right Man,” one of many songs inspired by her recent marriage to music exec Jordan Bratman, closes things on the wrong note.

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Ain’t No Other Man”

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