Retrospective: Christina Aguilera’s “Genie In A Bottle”
The ’90s were a transformative time for pop music. Led by cries of “zigazig ha” from the Spice Girls, the concept of girl power experienced a resurgence and appealed to an even younger group of independent women. As the UK girl group faded out, they were replaced by a crew of teen queens who emerged riding a wave of glimmering, bubblegum pop. Chief amongst those hitmakers was Christina Aguilera, who touched down with her debut single “Genie in a Bottle.”
18 years ago today the iconic track reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, going on to top the charts for five weeks and becoming one of the top selling singles of 1999. Buoyed by its massive success, it introduced the world to the youthful pop star in training.
Before Xtina was making the world move on her last LP Lotus, creating ahead of their time productions on Bionic, taking it back to the roaring twenties on Back To Basics, and getting down and dirrty in chaps and a thong on her sophomore effort Stripped, the hitmaker was a budding Disney star. In the early ’90s, she starred alongside Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears in the New Mickey Mouse Club and went on to win a coveted appearance on the company’s animated film Mulan soundtrack in 1998. Her high octane vocal performance attracted the attention of RCA, resulting in the recording contract that kickstarted her career.
Hoping to strike while the iron was hot after the high profile feature, RCA teamed their newest act with in-demand producers to collaborate on her self-titled debut album set for release in 1999. The project effortlessly blended R&B stylings with the pop aesthetic that ensured success in the teen market, and on few tracks is that more evident than the lead single “Genie in a Bottle.”
While Britney was teaming up with Swede-pop mainstay Max Martin for her debut single “Baby One More Time,” she went in a slightly different direction, working with David Frank, Steve Kipner, and Pam Sheyne to craft her first true hit. Frank and Kipner were responsible for work with the Nick Lachey-fronted boyband 98 Degrees the year prior making them experts on the teen market, while Sheyne would go on to write for the likes of Jessica Simpson. They wrote the single while Christina was on a promo tour for Mulan, creating the iconic lyrics and beats that set her career on a meteoric trajectory.
Opening with a rousing piano intro, the track transforms into a declaration of independence with an empowering but surprisingly sexual message for a former Disney star. “If you want to be with me, baby there’s a price to pay. I’m a genie in a bottle, you gotta rub me the right way,” Xtina emphatically sings on the chorus demanding proper treatment from a potential lover she meets on a dance floor. Her voice is utterly captivating as it caresses the production, and the lyrics drip with innuendo that was sure to strike conversations.
In the accompanying music video, Christina crashes a beachside party and executes some flirty choreography alongside a horde of backup dancers before winning a crush’s affections. She played the part of a pop star with ease, effortlessly balancing her wholesome looks with the more mature subject matter. Directed by the acclaimed Diane Martel, the visual was the first of many iconic moments to come.
“Genie in a Bottle” has been a mainstay in Christina’s discography since its release, and it has received some noteworthy performances over the years. On the Stripped Tour in 2003 the track received a rocking remix that blended elements of Egyptian instrumentals with a heavy metal production. She writhed around on a large X, delivering seductive choreography and an alluring performance that enchanted her audience and granted their wishes to be entertained.
In 2008, Xtina reworked the track to include on her greatest hits collection Keeps Getting Better: A Decade of Hits. The enduring pop ode was transformed into a pulsing, electro-adventure that was tailored for the year’s sound, and it’s sound was just as current then as it was 10 years earlier. Since then, she’s performed the updated version at several events, most recently at a set in Moscow in 2016 where she remixed the two versions and delivered soaring vocals.
More recently Camila Cabello borrowed the track’s iconic chorus for her debut solo single “Crying in the Club.” The feature is evidence that 18 years later Christina Aguilera’s debut is as hot as it was upon its initial release. As the “Your Body” songstress continues work in the studio on her highly anticipated new LP, she’s hopefully keeping the track in mind and aiming to record an album’s worth of material that can leave a similar impact. Revisit the iconic anthem below.