It was at the movies in 1998 that I first discovered Christina Aguilera. The film was, of course, Mulan, and the song was Reflection, a ballad about struggling to remain true to yourself. Now, ten years later, Christina Aguilera has released Keeps Getting’ Better: A Decade of Hits, her first greatest-hits package.
The debut single, title track Keeps Gettin’ Better is an energetic electropop tale of a Catwomanesque temptress superheroine who just can’t stop straddling the line between good and naughty:
Some days I’m a super bitch
Up to my old tricks
But it won’t last forever.
Next day, I’m your supergirl
out to save the world
And it keeps getting’ better
The track leaked in early September, followed a few days later by a sexy performance (along with a preview of another track on the album, “Genie 2.0”) on the MTV Video Music Awards. The other new song, “Dynamite”, is a light, splashy dance track you’d expect more from the likes of Gwen Stefani. There’s no social commentary in here, no long-stored pain, it’s about feeling free. One can imagine two bodies together in a club enjoying each other and the moment.
“Genie 2.0” is one of two remakes on this hits set. “Genie in a Bottle” is redone with a slow purr as electronic dance beats swirl in the background. The other remake, “You Are What You Are (Beautiful)” takes a song already full of emotional power and makes it damp and moody. It’s faintly reminiscent of some John Lennon with a touch of Radiohead’s occasional weird sonic distortion. While the original version is still best, this is a highlight from an artist who prides herself on reinvention and usually includes new arrangements of older tracks during her concerts. Both “Keeps Gettin’ Better” and “Dynamite”, along with the two remakes are, according to Aguilera, a taste of what’s to come on her new album, scheduled for next summer.
As for the rest of the album, there are some glaring omissions. The first is “Reflection”, the song that actually started Aguilera’s career and the track that would have officially made this set a complete decade’s worth of hits. As it stands now, all the songs are from 1999-2008. I wonder if it was her choice to leave it off or issues with using the song from Disney. Two other songs that should’ve made the cut are “Lady Marmalade”, which was a worldwide #1 hit, and “Nobody Wants to Be Lonely”, her duet with Ricky Martin that charted in the top 10 in many countries. These tracks are both on the international versions of the album, but “Reflection” is nowhere to be found. Another hit, “The Voice Within”, has been left off all but the British and Japanese editions.
The included tracks on Keeps Gettin’ Better showcase an artist who challenges herself to try different things. The earlier material is often poppier and less personal (“Genie in a Bottle”, “What a Girl Wants”), but songs taken from her albums Stripped (“Fighter”, “Beautiful”) and Back to Basics (“Ain’t No Other Man”, “Hurt”) hint at the growth personally, professionally, and in her ability to successfully tackle many musical genres that is even more blatant in the rest of those albums (on such songs as “Walk Away” and “Save Me From Myself”). Aguilera’s take on reinvention and of challenging herself will be familiar to any fan, but this is a collection that won’t disappoint the casual listener or someone who wants most of her hits in one slick Pop Art-inspired package. Even for a longtime fan with all her albums like myself, songs like Keeps Gettin’ Better and the remakes make this a must-own.