When Christina Aguilera first came out of the gate to promote her long-awaited new album, she was wearing panties and chaps, dancing erotically with men and women, and singing about "getting me off."
Now, just a month after the "Dirrty" video premiered, the 21-year-old starlet is bundling up in coats, perching atop stools on the talk show circuit and crooning "Everywhere we go, the sun will always shine."
With the inspirational second single "Beautiful" being rushed to radio, one might speculate Aguilera and her record company are scrambling to do some image control.
Not true, according to Dave Gottlieb, RCA's head of marketing. The label has always planned on releasing that particular track and is doing so early because "Dirrty," as he put it, "Didn't perform as a homerun at radio."
Although Gottlieb said "Beautiful" was picked because it is the next best Aguilera song, it just so happens the song, built around the lyrics "I am beautiful no matter what they say/ Words can't bring me down," provides a perfect balance to the provocative "Dirrty."
"It gives Christina the chance to explain herself beyond a party song and video that caused a lot of discussion," Gottlieb said. "It lets her discuss the album more and it lets people in to how great an album it is and that it's not made up of 15 other songs just like 'Dirrty,' it's made up of 15 other songs of all different types."
After the "Dirrty" video, which turned out to be even more controversial than perhaps anyone expected (see " 'Dirrty' Christina Aguilera Video Thai-ed To Sex Industry"), and the naked Rolling Stone cover and "below the belt" piercing revelation, it would be safe to say Christina shocked a few followers in her initial promotions for a record fittingly titled Stripped. "Beautiful," radio insiders believe, will put the raunch to rest ... at least temporarily.
"It's classic Christina," Jeff McCartney, a Top 40 specialist at radio trade magazine Hits, said of the new single, which is already playing on more than 50 stations although the official add date is not for another week. "It's a great song and she's very positive about it. It's a very positive message song, talking about how people should feel about themselves."
Michael Steele, program director at the Los Angeles area Top 40 station KIIS-FM, called "Beautiful" a career-solidifying song and suggested another reason why RCA is releasing it.
"The strategy is that [labels have] always gone with releasing a ballad around the holidays because ballads usually are the ones that sell records, and of course, they're trying to move as much product as they can," he said.
"Dirrty," which is not even in the upper half of Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart, is not promoting Stripped like a proper radio single should. The song's poor performance at radio is especially bewildering to some, since the video has been a huge hit.
"But videos and singles are two different things, as proven by [the most recent singles from] Backstreet Boys and 'NSYNC, which were #1 on 'TRL' but nowhere to be found on radio," McCartney explained. "Some songs just don't work on radio."
But just why "Dirrty" has tanked has the pop radio experts puzzled.
McCartney insinuated the audience the song attracted might have thrown off the testing. "Maybe there has been a backlash," he said. "With research, you're calling that 23-year-old female sitting at home on a Tuesday night, not out partying and taking her clothes off."
Ultimately, though, McCartney feels the risqué image is not to blame.
"Mandy Moore is the sweetest girl in the world and she can't sell anything," he said. "[Risqué] didn't work for Mariah [Carey], but she was so deep into her career by the time she changed, she really blew off her fanbase. There's a lot of girls who are as wild and crazy as Christina is. Look at how big 'Coyote Ugly' was."
Stripped was released on Tuesday (October 29) (see "Christina Stands Up For The Ladies, Discusses Father's Abuse").