Stop me if you've heard this one before: Teen songbird imbued with blond ambition follows up early breaks on "Star Search" and "The New Mickey Mouse Club" with a chart-topping debut single and an album loaded with potential singles.
The Britney Spears Story? Sure, but now it's also that of Christina Aguilera, whose burbling dance-pop hit "Genie in a Bottle" recently spent five weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 and whose self-titled debut album just opened at No. 1, four months after Spears's debut did the same.
The 18-year-old Aguilera, who made her "Star Search" debut at age 8, was part of the "Mickey Mouse Club's" super-class of 1993, which also included Spears, J.C. Chasez and Justin Timberlake of 'N Sync, and Keri Russell of Fox's "Felicity." Of those, Aguilera would seem to have the most musical potential, thanks to a genuinely powerful voice that's evoked comparisons to the younger Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, though it for the most part avoids those singers' ornamental mannerisms.
Aguilera first made an impression performing the yearning-but-inspirational "Reflection" on the soundtrack to Disney's animated fable "Mulan." That song is included on her RCA debut, but its lush production and comparative severity make it stand apart from the frothy dance-pop and power ballads that dominate the album.
The infectious, near-sultry "Genie in a Bottle" finds Aguilera offering sweet rewards if she's rubbed the right way, but there's nothing particularly sexual in her offer, which suggests more adolescent heat than adult fire. After all, Aguilera's just entering her senior year in high school.
Other entries on the dance card include a so-so remake of Houston's "So Emotional," the naughty-yet-nice "When You Put Your Hands on Me," the Scandinavian assembly-line pop of "Come On Over (All I Want Is You)" and "Love Will Find a Way," one of two tracks produced by Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers (best known for teen pop faves 'N Sync and Boyzone).
Sturken and Rogers soften things up considerably on the devotional "Love for All Seasons," and Aguilera has several strong turns on the ballad side. They include the supple, almost innocent affirmation of "What a Girl Wants," produced by Guy Roche, who's explored this territory before with Brandy and Aaliyah; "Blessed," written and produced by Travon Potts, co-writer of Monica's "Angel of Mine"; and "Obvious," a sultry, Toni Braxtonish turn in which Aguilera works her lower range to good effect.
It's a measure of Aguilera's perceived potential that she gets not one, but two songs from hitmaker Diane Warren. The first, "I Turn to You" (produced by Roche), is an inspirational ballad in the tradition of "How Can I Live Without You" that works despite being built on an astounding accumulation of cliches. Aguilera manages to sing them as though she's never heard them before and also shows vocal restraint rare in someone so young. Alas, Warren proves mortal on "Somebody's Somebody," whose up-tempo energies are not really the writer's forte.
Meanwhile, labels are scouring cast lists from "The New Mickey Mouse Club" . . .
(To hear a Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8171.)
CAPTION: "Genie in a Bottle" gives the 18-year-old singer her wish. CAPTION: Christina Aguilera, on the top of the charts.