Christina Aguilera on Britney: “We All Deserve Happiness”
One of pop’s greatest voices will receive the proper accompaniment when Christina Aguilera appears this weekend with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. In two concerts scheduled for Friday and Saturday, the 40-year-old Belter – who broke alongside Britney Spears during the teenage pop boom of the late 1990s and has since explored R&B, Latin music, tunes from show and boogie-woogie – promises an experience for which “my imagination is running wild.”
The colorful concert makes a stark contrast to Spears’ ongoing legal battle over his controversial guardianship, which Aguilera strongly condemned in a recent viral Twitter thread. On the phone from her home in Los Angeles, the singer spoke about this weekend’s shows, a pair of upcoming albums, and – at least until her publicist stepped in to say Aguilera hadn’t. nothing else on the subject – her surviving teenage pop colleague.
Do you like orchestral music?
I grew up around her. My mother is a violinist and traveled abroad with an orchestra when she was 16. And I’m a fan of sheet music – movies with a nice orchestration, Marvel movies to “Moonlight”. I looked up who made the music for this movie – it was Nick Britell – and I brought him over to my place and I thought, “I would love you to write the intro for my album. [for 2018âs âLiberationâ] because I’m so in love with what you did with this movie. And meeting Gustavo – I mean, it was such an honor. He does what I live for.
What are you singing at the Bowl?
I’ve never put so much time and effort into a set list – songs like “Can’t Hold Us Down” to “Fighter” to beautiful classics like [James Brownâs] “It’s a world of men of men of men.”
Are you coming back to “Genie in a Bottle”?
I am. There is a reimagined version of “Genie” which is quite epic. There is a Latin part of the show where I bring back some songs from [2000âs] “Mi Reflejo”, and I’m thinking of doing a reggaeton tour on “What a Girl Wants”. I approach it more like a theater performance than a concert; each song will have a different vibe, with a storytelling vibe. I love the work of Tim Burton and Danny Elfman, so there will be some cool, dark, and mysterious aspects to it as well.
What is another of the classics that you do?
Etta James is my favorite singer – her passion, her heart and her feelings, and the way she sang with such raw and felt emotion. Normally I do “At Last” with just piano and vocals, maybe drums and guitar. But if you’re listening to the original record, there’s this orchestra that starts with this slide. I’ve never been able to do it this way, so I’m really going for it, I’m thrilled.
Are you excited to get back on stage after the pandemic?
I thought about it because I was in the studio working on two records. Sometimes in the studio certain notes are a struggle – you’re locked in that confined booth – compared to when you’re with an audience and the live musicality takes your adrenaline to the next level. I’m like, “Wait, this note is a lot easier to play on stage.”
What are the two records?
An English record and a Spanish record. The last time I did a Spanish record was when I was baby Christina – “Mi Reflejo”. It was such a beautiful moment for me to pay tribute to my roots on my father’s side – he is from Ecuador – and since then I have wanted to do one again. So it’s really 20 years behind, except now I’m pretty glad it’s so long because I got to come back and dig into some of my personal stories about my dad. I’ve always had a very long relationship with him, and I talk about it a bit.
And the other album?
Totally different feeling. I work with producers and writers of whom I have been a huge fan for a long time. One in particular is Joseph Angel – he wrote âLove on the Brainâ for Rihanna. But all writers come from such a deep and sincere place. It is not about us trying to fit into a mold; it is a developed perspective that embodies everything I have experienced in this company and on a personal level. I made a lot of changes during my 40s – new people, a new support team. The experience has helped you realize who your car-or-die is. I am in a truly happy place, and I have never been able to fully say it.
Your tweet on Britney Spears included an old photo of the two of you. When was it taken?
It was nowadays at the Mickey Mouse Club. We were 11 or 12, babies in the business together, which is so amazing to come full circle – to both be able to have the success that we’ve had. It was a beautiful thing to remember these images; there is such a glow in our eyes. It was a great experience to have, not only with the two of us, but with all the kids – Justin [Timberlake] and Ryan Gosling and we all came together on this show. What a casting director. But shoot, we’ve been working since we were little. We all deserve a little happiness. I will always support Britney.