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Christoona ... at last!

Byline: By Gordon Barr

Pop queen Christina Aguilera makes her Toon debut next week. She gets Back To Basics with Entertainment Editor Gordon Barr for this EXCLUSIVE interview

Three years ago chart diva Christina Aguilera was gearing up for her first ever Newcastle gig.

It was set to be the biggest production to date at the Metro Radio Arena, a sell-out, as fans eagerly awaited her raunchy Stripped! show - and then, at about 11am on the day of the concert it was cancelled.

Christina had come down with laryngitis and had to pull out of a number of UK dates. At the time she vowed to fans she would return, a promise she will keep next Friday when her Back To Basics tour arrives in the city.

As she walks into the room for our interview at London's Mayfair Hotel, she looks every inch the star. Dressed in a beige sheer top, black leggings, knee-length boots, her hair tied back with a black band, skin porcelain white with ruby red lips, she is more stunning in the flesh than any photograph - and so small!

She is also very apologetic to her North East fans on forcing them to miss out on that show three years ago. "I'm sorry," she tells me. "My songs are challenging vocally at times and it's easy for me to lose my voice - at times.

"But I'm feeling strong and I'm ready to go back to give an amazing show so I'm excited.

"So much has changed since the last tour. I'm in a different space than I was, creatively as a person and musically, so I'm offering a great deal of myself as far as allowing my fans to see a much more vulnerable side.

"I'm really excited about sharing myself in that light in a very personal way and just being able to let my fans and audience into this creative world that I'm exposing visually on this tour.

"It is exciting for me to bring it to life. I can't give too much away. It kills me to bite my tongue but there are many surprises in store, so many amazing visual effects.

"What I try to do in the time I have during the concert is to be able to let someone else experience a completely different world and to be taken out of their own environment and safety box for a second and to be able to use their imagination in a different light and have them step into my world."

It certainly is a different Christina Aguilera now to the one we would have seen three years ago. The raunch is all but gone and in its place a more sophisticated look that recalls the golden era of Hollywood glamour.

The 25-year-old New Yorker puts that down to where she is in her life and the not so small matter of her marriage to music executive Jordan Bratman. "It's really important for me to constantly change and have my image evolve. I'm constantly being inspired by new things and for this period in my life, being in love being a newly-wed," she smiles.

"We're closing in on our first year anniversary on Sunday. I'm really excited. We're going to be in Dublin enjoying ourselves after my show.

"It's just a happier time of more peace for me in my life and it's a good space to be at. I wouldn't change anything that I went through and the choices I have made in the past because I wouldn't have been able to have evolved into the place I am in now and grown in that place.

"How has marriage changed me? I hope to always be changing and constantly evolving. But even as a person, it's a growing process for myself and but being in love and finding that person that acts as my backbone, my support team that's in my corner 100%, feels so nice and so amazing, as I'm sure anyone who is in a good marriage can say.

"For me, I'm happier than I've ever been. It's a nice time for me.

"But there's always growth and new places to explore, so the next record will be a different look once again and I'll come up with something new and draw on what my new inspiration will be." Christina's latest album, Back To Basics, is just that, with the emphasis on stripped down songs which showcase her voice to great effect.

"It's a very special record for me, being my first double album and probably the only double album I'll put out, especially because of the state of the music business.

"People just aren't buying albums the way they used to, people are downloading the music now. But taking the time to go out and buy a record and getting to the packaging, I still love that and think it is a lot more entertaining. It's just sad that times are changing and the computer holds all the information now.

"But nothing could limit my creativity. Absolutely not!"

Despite not being as raunchy as Stripped! the Back To Basic tour still promises to be a big affair. It opens in Sheffield tonight, and Christina is obviously excited by it.

"It's a really important tour for me to express myself visually, with all the circus elements involved and lots of surprises. I'm so proud of my dancers. They've been stunt training for this tour, learning all sorts of things. It's really a beautiful show and really spectacular to watch. I'm really thrilled about it.

"For someone like me, it has taken a long time to be able to take full creative reign of my career by making a lot of choices, solely from myself.

"Being in this business, and starting from a very young age, I've had a lot of people trying to take advantage in many ways.

"It's been a rough journey but I feel that I've paid my dues. "It's a lot of responsibility whenever you are heading your ship and you sink if your ship goes down with all the people in it."

It's going to be a colourful and well-designed ship too - courtesy of Roberto Cavalli. "I love Roberto Cavalli's lines and he had a few people make up sketches and designs based upon certain specific themes we have for this show.

"And I've worn him on red carpet and appearances before. He fits a woman's body very well."

NChristina Aguilera is at the Metro Radio Arena on November 24.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 17, 2006
Words:1086
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