Christina Aguilera’s Back to Basics has been oddly promoted, to say the least. Ample time was provided for the hit “Ain’t No Other Man” to run its course, but the follow-up, “Hurt,” fizzled. A third single was delayed until now, and it’s a strange one. “Candyman,” a retro ditty heavily inspired by “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and originally planned as the album’s second release until Aguilera’s label pushed for a ballad instead, isn’t exactly the kind of song you’d expect to do well alongside Mims’ “This Is Why I’m Hot.” But that’s exactly what Aguilera and her album need. Any number of tracks from the more modern side of the two-disc Back to Basics, including “Slow Down Baby,” “On Our Way,” and “Here To Stay,” would make more viable singles. And while Aguilera’s Grammy win last month gave Back to Basics a sizeable sales boost, she didn’t do the album any favors by performing a James Brown tribute instead of one of her own songs on the telecast.
Luckily, “Candyman” delivers the best video from Back to Basics so far. The clip, directed by the typically puddle-deep Matthew Rolston and vibrant enough to compete with the likes of videos by Fergie and Gwen, succeeds where the hodgepodge “Ain’t No Other Man” and “Hurt” (helmed by Bryan Barber and Floria Sigismondi, respectively) failed. Neither video consistently captured the tone or authenticity of the era Aguilera was trying to emulate. “Candyman,” on the other hand, does, honoring the Andrews Sisters, who first popularized the anthem “Bugle Boy” during World War II, and, perhaps, gunning for a relevant wartime hit of her own. Aguilera plays all three parts of a girl group sent to entertain the troops, swing dances in a sequence reminiscent of those famous khaki Gap ads from a few years back, and even dresses up as that iconic female bandana-wearing wartime worker from the ’40s.
My only problem with “Candyman” is that Aguilera doesn’t subvert, or even satirize, the images she evokes. They’re used in an almost perfunctory manner, for nostalgia rather than commentary, which is disappointing for the supposed heir apparent to Madonna.
Finally, while doing a little research on the propaganda posters used during World War II, I stumbled upon these laugh-riots (it’s not hard to imagine Bush and those in his administration using similar fear and guilt tactics today):
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.