Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back In the Day: Genie In A Bottle

This 'Back in the Day' is so overdue, it's "body is saying 'let's go'."

At this time ten years ago, we were smack in the middle of the official ushering of the Teen Pop Extravaganza that was known as Christina Aguilera's "Genie In A Bottle." The song was Xtina's official debut single, and landed her five weeks atop the Hot 100, holding on to her reign for virtually the entire month of August. "Genie" was Christina's first of three solo #1 singles (all of which coming from her debut album, the others being "What A Girl Wants" and "Come On Over, Baby (All I Want Is You)"), and she would also go on to have a collaborative #1 with P!NK, Missy Elliot, Lil Kim and Maya with their "cover" of LaBelle's 1974 classic "Lady Marmalade" for the film Moulin Rouge in 2001.

"Genie" was written and produced by David Frank and Steve Kipner (the latter has written the likes of Olivia Newton-John's "Physical", Kelly Rowland's "Stole" and Dream's "He Luvs U Not", amongst several others), and was originally titled "If You Wanna Be With Me." The title was scraped in favor of the more "exotic" "Genie In A Bottle" offering. As stated several times during her Stripped era, Xtina used to somewhat bemoan her first single, occasionally dusting it off as cheesy and not enough of a catalyst to show what her voice can really do. It was often hinted that of her debut album, Christina Aguilera, the third single and big ballad "I Turn To You" was her first choice as a first single, but considering her promotional single "Reflection" failed to make a major impact (despite the fact that it's been covered by every wannabe diva on "American Idol" since), a more uptempo song was chosen in its stead. No matter her thoughts on the song, it did in fact lead to her win of the notorioius "Best New Artist" Grammy Award the following year.

To this day, "Genie" still has a punch -- it doesn't quite linger with the now quintessential "90's teen pop" sound, and continues to sound different and fun to this day. It is still the type of song that is fun to sing along to at the top of your lungs when driving with your girlfriends...

The song may not be a stunner vocal-wise, but it certainly made me sit up and listen those ten years ago. I vividly remember sitting at the dinner table with my extended family (every Tuesday night we used to have dinner in our fancy dining room as a family...such American Pie we were!) and mentioning to my sister that this new girl playing on the radio is gonna be around for awhile as "Genie" wafted from the kitchen radio. Music tends to have that effect on people -- when it's something you really loved, you can often remember specific times and places when it first truly moved you...and here we are, ten years later, still remembering how perfect a pop song it was.

The song was unintentionally Christina's first big "controversy" due to its "explicit" lyrical content, due to the chorus' mention of "you gotta rub me the right way". In fact, on certain stations, the line was redubbed to "you gotta treat me the right way." I remember a plethora of interviews in which Christina insists that's what the song truly meant, and I still don't get why it was such a big deal. I don't recall such a big controversy of "(Hit Me)...Baby, One More Time"...but maybe I'm wrong? That seems much more sexual to me than "Genie" ever was.

When "Genie" took over the top spot, it was then that the Teen Pop Explosion of the late 90's/early 00's was really solidified, and soon after, every blonde, young, female singer was compared to either Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera (Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore, name it...). It also served as a way Christina threw her hat into the burgeoning Latin Explosion with its spanish translation, "Genio Atrapado", popular thanks to Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca" and Jennifer Lopez's "If You Had My Love", which both also hit the #1 spot in 1999 back to back from June to July.

An eletronic funkified version dubbed "Genie 2.0" appeared on Christina's "greatest far" package dubbed "Keeps Gettin' Better: A Decade of Hits" late last year in a style that will apparently be more of a reflection of her upcoming era, tentatively titled Light and Darkness. It was premiered at last year's Video Music Awards and helped perpetuate the comparisons to Lady Gaga, who at the time was just starting to gain true momentum with "Just Dance."

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