August 16, 2022

In The Quantity Ones, I’m reviewing each single #1 single within the historical past of the Billboard Sizzling 100, beginning with the chart’s starting, in 1958, and dealing my means up into the current.

Britney Spears needed to wait till her second album to announce that she was not that harmless. Britney’s closest modern Christina Aguilera, in contrast, needed to spend her rookie yr reassuring the world that she was that harmless. Just a few months after Aguilera’s hormone-bomb “Genie In A Bottle” reached #1, Aguilera went on Good Morning America and tried to clarify that her massive hit wasn’t about intercourse: “It’s a tune about self-respect. Individuals don’t get that. It truly is, it truly is. You’re saying, ‘You gotta deal with me the appropriate means.’… Don’t give your love away too simply.” She’s guffawing as she says it, but it surely’s the uncomfortable form of guffawing.

Aguilera’s protection of “Genie In A Bottle” isn’t improper, but it surely’s not precisely proper, both. Like so many traditional pop songs all through historical past, “Genie In A Bottle” is about intercourse and self-respect, concerning the locations the place these two impulses intersect and divide. A long time earlier than Aguilera’s delivery, the Shirelles sang about the identical issues on “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” — the questions that you just ask when your physique’s saying let’s go however your coronary heart is saying no no.

Within the context of the 1999 teen-pop increase, it was hanging to listen to a younger singer asking these questions outright moderately than letting them sit there as subtext. Aguilera emerged only a few months after Britney Spears, and “Genie In A Bottle” was virtually an invite to match the 2 singers, even when that wasn’t the supposed impact. When these twin TRL titans first launched themselves, one introduced pure teenage hearth, whereas the opposite instantly introduced herself as one thing simply barely extra grownup.

These Britney/Xtina comparisons had been inevitable from bounce, even when they weren’t particularly honest to both star. Britney and Christina merely had an excessive amount of in frequent. They’d each risen via the kiddie talent-show circuit. They’d sung on Star Search. They’d been Mouseketeers collectively. Just a few years after their emergence, Britney and Christina would stand on the identical VMAs stage, sporting bridal robes and making out with Madonna. And in that 1999 second when public starvation for gleaming crushed-out hard-candy teenybopper anthems was at its apex, Britney and Christina each rose as much as feed the lots.

Britney Spears got here first, and he or she modified the sport immediately. Britney had the nice fortune to connect herself to Max Martin’s insanely environment friendly Swedish hook manufacturing facility. When Martin wrote “Child One Extra Time,” he thought he’d give you an R&B observe, one thing match for TLC. In actuality, Martin’s tune was a Def Leppard-caliber stadium stomp. Christina Aguilera, then again, actually was an R&B singer, and “Genie In A Bottle” was, a minimum of on some degree, an R&B tune in teen-pop disguise. However the disguise was convincing, and it gave Christina the foothold that she wanted. Within the months forward, the Jessica Simpsons and Mandy Moores of the world would try and feed the necessity that Britney had created. None of them ever got here shut. Christina Aguilera was the one true competitors that Britney ever had — the Stones to Britney’s Beatles.

It didn’t begin off that means, in fact. Christina María Aguilera was born on Staten Island, however she didn’t develop up there. Christina was a army brat. Fausto, her Ecuadorian-born father, served within the Military, and the household moved everywhere in the US and frolicked in Japan when Christina was younger. (Kenny Rogers’ “Girl” was the #1 tune in America on the day of Christina’s delivery.) Christina’s father was bodily and emotionally abusive. When Christina was six, her mom divorced her father. Alongside along with her mom, Christina moved into her grandmother’s home within the Pittsburgh suburb of Rochester, and Christina spent most of her childhood round Pittsburgh.

Christina liked singing, and he or she began profitable expertise reveals when she was eight. In 1990, Christina sang an especially melisma-heavy stage-kid rendition of the previous commonplace “A Sunday Sort Of Love” on Star Search. (Ed McMahon mentioned that Christina was eight, however she was actually 10. He additionally mangled her title in some spectacular methods.) Like Britney Spears and the pre-Future’s Baby group Ladies Tyme, Christina misplaced on Star Search. Over the subsequent few years, Christina sang the Nationwide Anthem earlier than an entire lot of Pittsburgh sporting occasions, together with the primary sport of the Stanley Cup Finals in 1992.

See also  The Quantity Ones: Spice Ladies’ “Wannabe”

In 1993, Christina Aguilera joined the forged of the rebooted Mickey Mouse Membership, a weirdly consequential expertise incubator. Christina was in there with Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Ryan Gosling, and Keri Russell. Even when Christina hadn’t turn out to be galactically well-known just a few years later, it could nonetheless be trippy to see this little child wailing out Mary J. Blige covers for an viewers of fellow youngsters.

Christina spent a yr as a Mouseketeer earlier than the Disney Channel cancelled The Mickey Mouse Membership. She was decided to maintain her profession going. In 1997, a teenage Christina went to Japan to report “All I Wanna Do,” an English-language dance-pop duet with the Japanese singer Keizo Nakanishi. The tune didn’t go anyplace, so Christina returned to the US and bought again in contact with Disney.

In 1998, Disney was on the point of launch the animated film Mulan, they usually wanted somebody to sing the large Matthew Wilder-written ballad “Reflection.” (Matthew Wilder’s highest-charting single, 1983’s “Break My Stride,” peaked at #5. It’s a 4.) In an try and get the gig, Christina recorded a model of Whitney Houston’s “Run To You,” a tune that she would later cowl at a 2001 Whitney tribute for BET. Christina nailed the large observe on the finish of “Run To You,” and that was apparently ok to get her the Mulan job. In Mulan itself, Aladdin veteran Lea Salonga sang “Reflection,” however Aguilera sang the model that performed over the movie’s finish credit. Aguilera’s “Reflection” got here out as a single, too. It by no means made the Sizzling 100, but it surely went top-20 on the Grownup Modern chart. A long time later, Christina re-recorded the tune for the Mulan remake.

Christina was pursuing a contract with RCA whereas she was going after that Disney gig, and her efficiency on “Reflection” impressed sufficient folks that the label shortly signed her. RCA A&R rep Ron Honest put critical sources into Christina, lining up big-deal songwriters for her debut album. Aguilera idolized Mariah Carey, and he or she wished her first RCA single to be a grand ballad, since that’s what Mariah had completed with “Imaginative and prescient Of Love.” However Honest learn the tea leaves, and he knew that an uptempo dance-pop jam would assist her break via. Christina wanted “Genie In A Bottle.”

It took an unlikely trio of music-business veterans to write down “Genie In A Bottle.” Essentially the most seasoned of them was Steve Kipner, who was born in Ohio however who’d grown up in Australia. Kipner bought his begin within the mid-’60s because the teenage frontman of a band referred to as Steve & The Board, who recorded for a similar label because the younger Bee Gees. (Kipner’s father Nat produced “Spicks And Specks,” the Bee Gees’ first Australian hit.) Later, Kipner led the band Tin Tin, whose Maurice Gibb-produced 1970 single “Toast And Marmalade For Tea” reached #20 on the Sizzling 100.

Within the ’70s, Kipner moved to the US and have become a pop songwriter. He co-wrote Olivia Newton-John’s “Bodily,” the longest-reigning #1 hit of the pre-Soundscan period. It took Kipner 17 years to land one other #1 hit, however he stored working steadily in that point. Within the late ’90s, Kipner began writing songs with David Frank, a man who’d already been via an extended pop-chart historical past of his personal.

David Frank, a Massachusetts native, had been a critical scholar of classical piano earlier than he converted to synth. In 1981, Frank was residing in New York, and he bought along with singer Mic Murphy to kind the System, a dance-pop duo who had some success within the ’80s. (The System’s highest-charting single, 1987’s “Don’t Disturb This Groove,” peaked at #4. It’s a 5.) Frank’s synth experience made him an in-demand musician within the ’80s, and he was a vital element in a few chart-topping hits, Phil Collins’ “Sussudio” and Steve Winwood’s “Greater Love.”

See also  The Month In Metallic — June 2022

After the System broke up, David Frank moved to Los Angeles, and his writer launched him to Steve Kipner. Collectively, they wrote “The Hardest Factor,” a 1999 hit for the boy band 98 Levels. (“The Hardest Factor” peaked at #5. It’s a 6. 98 Levels’ highest-charting single is 2000’s “Give Me Simply One Evening (Una Noche),” which peaked at #2. It’s a 4. As company, 98 Levels will finally seem on this column.) Whereas Frank and Kipner had been working collectively, a pal prompt a 3rd collaborator.

Pam Sheyne, the youngest of this random-ass trio, got here from New Zealand. After shifting to the UK, she discovered work as a backup singer for folks just like the Pet Store Boys and Céline Dion. Within the late ’90s, Sheyne began writing songs, and her greatest early success got here when she co-wrote “She Needs You,” a 1998 single for a singer named Billie. “She Needs You” didn’t attain the Sizzling 100, but it surely was a #3 hit within the UK. Flush with that success, Sheyne moved to New York and bought connected with Steve Kipner and David Frank.

“Genie In A Bottle” was the primary tune that Kipner, Frank, and Sheyne wrote collectively. Frank got here up with the tune’s backing observe the evening earlier than all of them met for his or her first writing session. The three of them shortly developed a rapport whereas writing “Genie In A Bottle” collectively. The three writers stored working collectively for some time, they usually quickly wrote a few bangers for the short-lived Unhealthy Boy woman group Dream. They had been collectively answerable for Dream’s “He Loves U Not,” a tune that reached #2 in 2000. It’s an 8. I’m much more keen on “This Is Me,” their second Dream single, however that one stalled out at #39.

As soon as the “Genie In A Bottle” demo began making the rounds, the songwriters began getting calls. Paula Abdul wished the observe, which might’ve made for a bizarre sliding-doors second. The tune virtually went to Innosense, the Lou Pearlman-managed woman group that Britney Spears had virtually joined. However Christina Aguilera’s staff pushed laborious for the tune, they usually bought it. The observe was initially referred to as “If You Need To Be With Me,” however Aguilera’s supervisor knew that “Genie In A Bottle” was the higher title.

Initially, Christina wasn’t positive about “Genie In A Bottle.” The tune, a late addition to Christina’s self-titled debut, wasn’t the best way that she wished to current herself to the world. On the identical time, Kipner and Frank, who produced the observe, weren’t positive if a balladeer like Christina might deal with the tune. After they began working with Christina, Kipner and Frank had been instantly blown away by her vocal expertise. They coached her, getting her to cease singing loopy muscular runs everywhere in the observe and to point out some vulnerability.

That vulnerability is necessary. “Genie In A Bottle” is flirty, but it surely’s conflicted, too. The songwriters clearly knew what they had been doing. If something, “Genie In A Bottle” is much more innuendo-heavy than “Bodily”; there are solely so many option to learn the half about “gotta rub me the appropriate means.” Christina sings that her hormones are racing on the velocity of sunshine however that don’t imply it’s gotta be tonight. You would forgive somebody for specializing in the hormones, for lacking the entire level of the second half.

David Frank’s observe works as a vivid, direct approximation of the difficult, layered R&B that was taking up the charts within the late ’90s. It’s not as wealthy or subtle as one thing like Future’s Baby’s “Payments, Payments, Payments,” but it surely’s bought that very same form of layered syncopation working for it. A percolating synth chatters forwards and backwards with quasi-Latin piano thrives. Drum machines shudder via artificial horn-stabs and spidery guitar notes. There’s quite a bit happening within the beat, but it surely’s all there to spotlight Christina’s vocal, which sucks up all of the air within the room.

See also  Shut Up, Dude: This Week’s Finest Feedback

On “Genie In A Bottle,” it’s clear that Christina Aguilera has a massively highly effective voice, but it surely’s virtually as if she’s attempting to obscure it. That voice is deep and wealthy, however she by no means mashes the gasoline. As a substitute, she performs disguise and search. A few of her ad-libs are murmured and distorted, coming via like she’s speaking over a foul telephone line. On the verses, she’s virtually conversational, easing into the observe’s pocket. On the refrain, there’s a pleading, practically determined high quality to her supply. It’s an performing efficiency. Her character needs to get with this different individual, however she doesn’t need it to be too straightforward. So she performs the sport, and he or she tells the opposite person who they’ve bought to play the sport, too.

Diane Martel directed the “Genie In A Bottle” video, which was all flickering ambiance. Christina was 18 when “Genie In A Bottle” got here out, and the clip by no means reveals her within the harsh mild of a high-school hallway. As a substitute, she’s on a seaside at evening, lit by firelight, displaying an enormous expanse of torso in nearly each shot. The clip virtually performs prefer it’s attempting to attract a distinction between Christina and Britney Spears. However in these two movies, Britney and Christina have one necessary factor in frequent: They each seem like they’re having enjoyable.

“Genie In A Bottle” went on to turn out to be the inescapable summer season jam of 1999, and it hit TRL practically as laborious as “Child One Extra Time” had completed just a few months earlier. A tune like which may not make a profession, however it might undoubtedly begin one. The introduction had its supposed impact. Christina Aguilera had rocketed herself into the pop dialog, and he or she would stay there for a very long time to come back. We’ll see Christina on this column once more quickly.

GRADE: 8/10

BONUS BEATS: Beverly Hills 90210 was nonetheless moving into 1999, and Christina Aguilera stopped by the Peach Pit After Darkish to lip-sync “Genie In A Bottle” whereas a band pretended to play the extraordinarily artificial observe. Right here’s Christina’s massive 90210 scene:

(The opposite tune that Christina pretends to sing in that clip is “I Flip To You,” a Diane Warren ballad that former Quantity Ones artists All-4-One initially recorded for the House Jam soundtrack in 1996. The All-4-One model by no means got here out as a single, however Christina’s cowl peaked at #3 in 2000. It’s a 4.)

BONUS BONUS BEATS: One of the beloved tracks from the early-’00s mash-up craze was a bootleg generally known as “A Stroke Of Genius.” The UK producer Freelance Hellraiser put Christina’s “Genie In A Bottle” vocals over the backing observe from the Strokes’ 2001 tune “Onerous To Clarify,” and it fucking dominated. Right here’s “A Stroke Of Genius”:

RCA blocked any industrial launch of “A Stroke Of Genius,” so the Scottish band Speedway lined “Genie In A Bottle” and made positive the backing observe sounded as very similar to “Onerous To Clarify” as doable. Within the UK, Speedway’s model of “Genie In A Bottle,” primarily a not-as-good cowl of “A Stroke Of Genius,” reached #10 in 2003. Right here’s the Speedway video:

BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: The at the moment ascendant pop singer Dove Cameron recorded a canopy of “Genie In A Bottle” again when she was one of many stars of the Disney Channel franchise Descendants. Right here’s Cameron’s video for her barely Disnified tackle “Genie In A Bottle,” which was a part of the soundtrack of the 2016 brief Descendants: Depraved World:

(Dove Cameron’s highest-charting single, 2022’s “Boyfriend,” peaked at #16.)

BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Right here’s the scene from a 2016 New Lady episode the place Zooey Deschanel lulls Max Greenfield to sleep by singing “Genie In A Bottle”:

BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Right here’s Camila Cabello’s video for her 2017 single “Crying In The Membership,” which interpolates “Genie In A Bottle”:

(“Crying In The Membership” peaked at #47. Camila Cabello will finally seem on this column.)

The Quantity Ones: Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal The Historical past Of Pop Music is out 11/15 by way of Hachette Books. You may pre-order it right here.