By Mandy Jenkins
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera have come a long way since their teen idol days. They've moved on and grown up to become full-fledged entertainers. Think it's a stretch? If you had been at their Cincinnati stop of the "Justified and Stripped" tour Saturday night at U.S. Bank Arena, you'd think twice.
Christina Aguilera: untapped potential
Watching Christina Aguilera through the eyes of an 8-year-old in blonde pigtails really puts this artist - and she is an artist - in perspective.
Yes, she sells sex the same way Britney Spears once did (actually it's much dirtier), but the awe in the eyes of a little girl in the front row says what this artist is really all about. Beyond the skimpy outfits, the stripper dancing routines and the piercings, there's a singer in there.
While she did begin a very grown-up version of "Genie in a Bottle" while tied up in lingerie to a rack (don't ask), she doesn't have to resort to such antics. She rocked the house to "Dirrty," but it's obviously beneath the talent of a girl-woman who minutes later nailed every powerful note of Etta James' "At Last." That little girl in the front row knew it.
She looked somewhat stunned as Christina shook her almost-bare backside onstage to a vigorous "Stronger," complete with fireworks and muscled male backup dancers. However, that same little girl sang every word, eyes closed and swaying slowly, to the poignant girl-anthem "Beautiful."
Even though Christina had no less than eight costume changes of varying degrees of coverage all night, she sang "Beautiful" wearing simple jeans and a T-shirt. No backup dancers, no fireworks. That powerful voice, wasted on throwaway (but admittedly fun) pop like "Come On Over," was really all she needed to make that little girl's night.
Justin Timberlake: Party like it's 1989
Justin Timberlake, on the other hand, is not so much a singer as he is an entertainer. At this show, he excelled at fast-paced R&B danceable songs, but faltered at slow ballads. So why keep up with the slow jams? The ladies love it, of course.
And that is what JT is all about. He came to the show armed with a constantly moving stage and a huge backup band (with real instruments), and he aimed to please.
His performance of "Cry Me a River" was the very best he has to offer as an artist. The smooth combination of live instrumentation and precise choreography made for a spectacle that hasn't been so well done since the heyday of Michael Jackson. When he danced, bathed in blue light and wearing a cocked hat, he even looked a bit like The Gloved One.
When he donned an Adidas sweat suit and beat-boxed with a DJ and drummer to the old school classic "It Takes Two," he showed his true potential. While crooning songs such as "Let's Take a Ride" - while on a floating platform, no less - can make a singer popular, it doesn't give them staying power.
Good grooves are his strength and can be something to leave behind as an artist. "Rock Your Body" could be his "Billie Jean," and the screaming from the audience (and it was constant) proves it.
QUEEN CITY BLUES FEST PREVIEW
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Six local ladies who belt the blues
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Players give fest doses of tradition, progression
Justin, Christina make leap from idols to entertainers
Datsuns '70s act is knockout
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