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Music

All-American dolls

They may look and sound sexy, but Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani have embraced old-time values. Think June Cleaver in a garter belt.

By SEAN DALY
Published May 3, 2007


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photo
[AP photos]
Gwen Stefani, left, performs at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Ford Amphitheatre. Christina Aguilera is at the St. Pete Times Forum, 7:30 Friday night.


Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani weren't always so pure, so good, so gosh-darn American.

Once, they were Bad Girls.

Christina, the former Mouseketeer, longed to be Xtina, to abandon the "Christ" and embrace the sin. "Sorry, I'm not a virgin, " she sang.

Gwen, the tank-topped tomboy, longed to break free, to strut her independence. "I'm in the mood, so come on and give it up, " she sang.

Then a funny thing happened: On the way to becoming the sexiest, and arguably best, singers in pop music, Aguilera and Stefani became Good Girls.

They now embrace monogamy, marriage, family, even love of country.

Seriously.

As pop rivals Britney and Fergie set up shop in Sleazeville, as the tabloids snapped away and stole young souls, Aguilera got married, removed her dozens of piercings and dedicated a platinum-selling double album, Back to Basics, to the strength of good, strapping men, particularly our boys in uniform.

While dressing and vamping like Betty Grable, she made peace with her dead father on Hurt. She knelt at her hubby's feet for Save Me From Myself.

Goodbye, Xtina.

Welcome back, Christina.

After her first solo album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby., Stefani and husband Gavin Rossdale had a son, Kingston, who inspired the gone-solo Gwen to make a record about the sexiness of motherhood. That new disc, The Sweet Escape, begins with an homage to The Sound of Music's Julie Andrews, the ultimate maternal figure, with Stefani yodeling The Lonely Goatherd.

Seriously.

If we were talking about Madonna - who has remained fairly nasty throughout her career - we'd use the word "reinvention, " a blatant switcheroo of personae to mess with minds.

But with Aguilera, 26, and Stefani, 37, both appearing here within the next week, the changes of heart were natural, a main reason why their Good Girl albums have sold like gangbusters.

I know what you're thinking: Isn't Aguilera still pretty saucy? Well, yes, but now she's patriotically and monogamously saucy. Aguilera's clever hit Candyman, with its snippets of USO call-and-response, deals in innuendo involving plummeting undergarments. But the Andrews Sisters tribute is also heroically pro-soldier, especially the video, which might be the hottest recruiting tool since Ann-Margret.

The rest of Back to Basics is almost exclusively dedicated to her new husband, Jordan Bratman, including first single Ain't No Other Man and album closer The Right Man, in which Aguilera, belting through her wedding veil, hits the most honest notes of her career. The little girl lost has finally found the right man. I bet she makes a mean apple pie, too.

Stefani's career has been just as compelling, if only because she has put the juicy battle between Bad Girl and Good Girl right on record. The first time we realized Gwen wasn't your typical pop star was on No Doubt single Simple Kind of Life: "I always thought I'd be a mom/Sometimes I wish for a mistake."

Her first solo album opened with the frenetic What You Waiting For?, a song about being torn between the rock star life and a family life. The song's beat is nothing less than the sound of her ticking biological clock.

"I'm feeling yummy head to toe, " Stefani sings on Yummy, from her maternally minded new album. "I know you've been waiting, but I've been off making babies." And wouldn't you know it: Smack in the middle of the song, a baby's cry cuts through the dance beat. Crazily enough, it works.

And that, I imagine, is what the Bad Girl-Good Girl shift really boils down to. It's not a sign of the times; it's a sign of maturity. The pop culture landscape was getting so harried, Christina and Gwen were wise enough, and brave enough, to grow up. And in these crazy days when rehab is a stepping-stone to fame, growing up might be the only way for a pop star survive.

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@sptimes.com or 727 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.

 

If you go

Christina Aguilera

With the Pussycat Dolls and Danity Kane, performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday, St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa. $51.25-$86.75. (813) 301-2500.

Gwen Stefani

With special guests Akon and Lady Sovereign, performs at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Ford Amphitheatre, Tampa. $10-$69.50. (813) 740-2446.

 

[Last modified May 2, 2007, 12:32:10]


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