Christina Aguilera

Advance publicity for Stripped was not good, with pictures of La Aguilera’s new midway-skank makeover popping up on the Internet. (She’s clad in custom “X-Tina” chaps over promo “Dirrty” black panties.) Bad career advice? Aguilera, like the other squeaky-clean Mouseketeer divas (Britney, Mandy, Jessica, etc.), is at a crossroads. Her tweener audience is growing up. Can her career make the transition? Of her peer group, only Aguilera has the goods to be more than her generation’s Annette Funicello. On the first single on Stripped, “Dirrty,” she aims for Like a Virgin-era Madonna, but comes off like Elizabeth Berkley in the Paul Verhoeven film classic Showgirls. Elsewhere, she ranges from overblown power ballads (“The Voice Within”) to meditative soul (“Loving Me 4 Me”) to “Lick My Love Pump”-esque chamber pop (“Beautiful”). Stripped may lack focus, but it’s more substantial than one might expect.