Back in the late nineties, the music world was deluged with a plethora of singing schoolgirls led by Britney Spears and followed by the likes of Mandy Moore and Jessica Simpson. Branching out from the pack with a genuinely good debut (Genie in a Bottle) and diva demands that would make Mariah blush, Christina Aguilera has carved out a reputation as a performer with staying power. In the five years since she burst onto the scene, she has won three Grammy and scored several number one抯. In late 2003, Christina toured the UK. In late 2004, she finally released the DVD?br>
Christina begins the show with 2003's smash hit Dirrty before moving onto the lesser known Get Mine, Get Yours. Following these two performances, Christina welcomes her audience by addressing them with an embarrassing string of platitudes. It's these moments, which pop up all too frequently, which make parts of the show almost unwatchable. Christina's fans (mostly female, it appears) lap it up - but to the non-fans it all seems particularly phoney.
Fortunately, Christina is a far better performer than compere, and the variety of dance routines she performs manage to enliven proceedings. Energetic and ably supported by a talent crew of back-up dancers, it's a draw-back that the cameramen seem reluctant to get particularly close to the stage so that the choreography can be scrutinised in greater detail.
As for the songs themselves, well; they're a mixed bag and this is unsurprising considering Christina varies between music styles with casual abandon. The over-rated R'n'B number, Dirrty is a million miles away from her pop debut, Genie in a Bottle (which remains her most effective track), but at least it lingers in the memory- unlike many of the songs that make up the second half of the concert.
Christina can certainly handle a ballad, as is evident in Beautiful, but the similar offering The Voice Within fails simply because it's so horrendously self-important that it verges on parody. It is these songs where Christina's undoubtedly very good voice gets a work-out. However, her performances are marred by placing too much emphasis on stretching her vocal chords to their limits rather than just singing the song to the best of her ability. When this, too frequently, occurs, any message in the songs becomes over-shadowed.
Recording music concerts for the purposes of video and DVD is something of a thankless task as they invariably fail to capture the atmosphere that was present for the watching audience in the arena. Furthermore, in the days of CGI; watching fireworks or lightshows on a widescreen TV is less than awe-inspiring. With this is mind, Christina Aguilera Stripped will never set the world alight.
Recording a concert in a darkened arena means that the picture quality comes under close scrutiny and it抯 pleasing to note that the recurrent darkness is a true black rather than a dull grey. Of further success are the frequent lighting effects; they may appear too garish and bright, but blame the director - not the DVD! If the video quality has a flaw, it a sore lack of sharpness and clarity which is a disappointment when one considers the numbers of colours on display.
A choice of audio set-up gives you the opportunity to watch the show in 5.1 or the basic stereo mix. It's perhaps a backhanded compliment to state both options give an effective representation of watching a concert at Wembley Arena. The quality of the music reproduction is negligible, but close your eyes with the bass on your surround system blaring, and you could be stood in the front row. Either way, there's far too much emphasis on cheering crowds and the echoes of the stadium, rather than the actual music - particularly in the stereo mix which has to handle all of this with a limited number of speakers.
The DVD contains several menu's worth of special features but, on closer inspection, there's a severe lack of genuine content with few of them stretching past the four-minute mark.
All Around the World is a (very) brief featurette that includes facts about the tour, together with shots of the cities that were visited. Did you know that they used 3 miles of cable for Christina's concert? Nope. And did you want to know? Err, nope.
Shot in much the same way, is a featurette which allows you to Meet the Supporting Cast. Fairly pointless, but a rare highlight is when the backing singers start warming up by singing Britney numbers... An option to Meet The Style Team is also present, although the continual praise about Christina's endless talents gets a little tiresome.
The Exclusive Interview is really just a collection of short statements by Christina, interspersed with clips from the videos. An irritation is that they're split into chapters and it's impossible to 'view all', meaning continual trips back to menu are the order of the day. Lacking any real insight, the impact of these soundbytes are further lessened by that familiar and overused clich?of interviews; the black and white close-up.
Comparing fake tans, Christina Aguilera and Donatella Versace meet up for a short chat and then a tour of a nightclub. This item lasts about a minute, which should give you an indication of it's worth as a special feature.
Shot at the same time as the interview, the RSVP feature allows a small selection of Christina's European fans to ask her questions. No amazing nuggets of information, although the indication that Miss Aguilera is eyeing up a duet with Bjk should be of interest to someone. Maybe.
Ignoring that rather daft title which will trick precisely no-one into making a misjudged purchase, mostly everyone who buys this disc will be satisfied. Of course, that's because the only people who will want to give this a view will be devotees of the singer. This is a DVD which serves it's limited purposes and, for that reason, is an adequate stocking-filler for any fan.