Just Be Free

by: Christina Aguilera

"Just Be Free was recorded when I was only 14 and 15 years old... did not intend that the recordings would be widely released, especially after I signed with a major record label. I have not updated or finished the versions recorded in my childhood and they are being released 'as is,' although I tried to prevent the release for several years. The recordings do not in any way reflect my current musical taste and where I am as an artist. The growth and vocal development I experienced as I matured into young adulthood is not reflected in the recordings. The album of new recordings that I intend to release this fall will be the album that truly reflects my artistry, my vision and my passion. The Just Be Free recordings will hopefully be a footnote in a musical career that I dream will last for many years to come." -- Christina Aguilera, in the liner notes to Platinum Recording Group's 2001 release, Just Be Free. Well, that pretty much says it all, doesn't it? Of course, the label buried these brutally honest comments within in the liner notes, so you'd have to purchase the album in order to read them (when it's quite clear Aguilera was hoping that they'd be put on the cover or a sticker as a consumer advisory), but it's enlightening to bring them to the forefront, since that's what Just Be Free is -- a collection of, to borrow Elvis Costello's phrase, "pre-professional" recordings that Ms. Aguilera fought tooth and tail to suppress, all in vain. It's easy to see why she's not thrilled about these recordings, since they're generic early-'90s dance-pop with a heavy house influence, all sung earnestly by Aguilera. She's actually not as miasmic or overwrought as she is on the recordings following her debut (it would be a nice sign of maturity if she tones it down a notch on the forthcoming album), but the songs so unmemorable, the production so bland, and the performances so green -- it's not even amusing in its datedness, unlike Alanis Morissette's early recordings -- it really isn't much more than a footnote in her career, even if it should happen to stop cold after her second album. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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