September 29, 1999
Christina Aguilera carving out her own niche
By JANE STEVENSON
Christina Aguilera, the latest Lolita-like pop sensation with a No. 1 hit -- Genie In A Bottle -- understands the comparisons to fellow teen music queen Britney Spears.

She just doesn't agree with them.

"Everybody gets compared to someone," says the 18-year-old suburban Pittsburgh native while in town last week on a promotional trip. "But we are two very different artists. The way we approach what we do vocally and the way we approach music in general -- it's coming from two completely different areas. She sticks to pop the way it is -- and that's great. She's really talented and I have much respect for what she's doing, she's a hard-working girl. But then I think that I sort of take pop to another level."

Mall mania

Aguilera, whose in-store appearance here last week drew thousands to a Mississauga mall, was also a last-minute presenter on the MuchMusic Video Awards Thursday during which the 17-year-old Spears performed and picked up one trophy.

"We do have a history together," continues Aguilera. "We were on the (Orlando-based) Mickey Mouse Club. She and I were the youngest of the cast members, so we were sort of like the babies, so we instantly bonded. We were around the same age and it was cool, but then the show ended like two seasons later and then we split up and then all of a sudden I see like little Brit-Brit as Britney Spears -- the new pop sensation -- and I was like, 'Wow, this is crazy!' "

That Mickey Mouse Club also included J.C. and Justin of 'N Sync and Felicity star Keri Russell.

"People think we cat fight too," says Aguilera of Spears. "And it's like the minute (her album) ... Baby One More Time first came out, I seriously was the first in line to buy it. I mean I wanted to support her 'cause she's my friend and I'm sure she did the same thing when my album came out."

Still, Aguilera -- whose mature-sounding voice led to appearances on TV's Star Search when she was eight, singing the national anthem for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Penguins at age 10, and joining the Mickey Mouse Club at age 12 -- says pop is her least favourite sound. She's into blues, gospel and R&B and says Etta James is one her favourite singers, so she intially resisted having Genie In A Bottle as her first single.

"Now I have no regrets obviously," she says. "It shot up to No. 1 and the album debuted at No. 1. It's just amazing what's been going on."

As for the song's suggestive chorus, "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,' Aguilera doesn't get all the fuss.

"A lot of people want to perceive Genie In A Bottle as a very sexual song and, of course, it does touch on the subject. But the way I interpret it, I give it a lot of sass. And it's a cute twist on word play. It's a song about self-respect, but not being in your face about it."

Aguilera, whose self-titled debut album is already double platinum in Canada and the U.S. after being in stores just one month, isn't expected to perform in Toronto until at least next year. She got her first big break last year when she was chosen to sing Reflection for the Disney animated film, Mulan. She's since appeared on an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 and says acting is an eventual goal.

Busy days

But for now, Aguilera's got plenty to keep her busy. She's working on the video for her second single, a new version of What A Girl Wants; is set to open for TLC starting in either November or January; and will record an album in Spanish -- including Genie In A Bottle. Her father is Ecuadoran.

"I do have Spanish roots, so that's a part of me that I'm trying to explore," she says. "It's something I've wanted to do for a long time. It would make my grandparents proud."