Analysis of Lyrics: “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera
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Don’t look at me is the first line of Christina Aguilera’s song “Beautiful.” This instant whisper from the voice of Aguilera creates an ashamed vibe for the song. It is spoken quietly and without any musical instrumentation. As the music softly and brilliantly builds up to the first verse listener’s already have a misinterpretation of the lyrics. The audience presumes that the song will be about depression or shame and disgrace because one would associate not wanting people to look at you with shame. However, once they read more into the lyrics they notice that the meaning of the song is much deeper than shame and actually has an opposite message. When the audience hears the title of the song they could also make the assumption that the song is about beauty and the images of pop stars, although it is about finding beauty in everyone. Beautiful is something or someone that is ‘pleasing to the senses.’ We all have inner beauties that define us as individuals.
Christina Aguilera is a pop artist. Her music and image has won the hearts of many females averaging from ages 12 to 25. Many females of this age will browse through the latest magazines, look at pictures and read interviews about the pop icon. She has become a phenomenon for this generation. She started with a young target audience and as she has matured, her music has as well. She went from songs like “Reflection” and “I’m a Genie in a Bottle” to “Beautiful” and most recently, “Hurt.” This developed approach has broadened her target audience. Her music can be perceived as pop, but at the same time her new style has shown more significance to her social audience. She went from singing about boyfriends to singing about universal topics of social acceptance and stereotypes that cause so much hatred and anger in the world. Christina Aguilera is a dominant musical icon in our society. “Beautiful” relies heavily upon the use of double standards, not only within the lyrics but also regarding the marketing and image of Aguilera.
When looking at the lyrics of “Beautiful” objectively, there are different perspectives in which the lyrics can be interpreted. Defining who the speaker is completely changes the context of the lyrics. In “Beautiful” I believe that we should look at the average teenage girl, a gay couple (particularly a stereotype), and Christina Aguilera herself as three separate speakers.
From an average teenage girls point of view “Beautiful” is most likely a song that they can relate to in terms of life and the self-battles they are having. For a teenage girl it may seem like everything is going well, but then suddenly there is a change that causes a mishap, such as acne affecting her image. From the pain of her image she may feel ashamed and insecure. This is when she has to tell herself that she is not flawless and yet she is an individual, but even if people do make fun of or gossip about her she is still beautiful. This is where “Beautiful” gives hope to the average girl that lets words affect her. Boldly, the lyrics and music adjoin and say Words can’t bring me down/ I am
beautiful in every single way/ Yes, words can’t bring me down/ Oh no, so don’t you bring me down today. This is reassuring advice that they have to stand up for themselves and not let words or opinions of others change their character. However, this is a contradicting line because it states that words can’t bring me down, but then it implies that ‘you’ can when it says Oh no, don’t you bring me down today. Next, the lyrics focus on how this teenage girl may be struggling on the inside, but appear to be euphoric to her friends. No matter what they do/ No matter what they say/ We’re the song inside the tune full of beautiful mistakes/ And everywhere we go/ The sun will always shine/but tomorrow we might awake/ On the other side.
This set of lyrics signifies that the beautiful world is temporary and that there is another side. This is another one of the double standards of the song because it is saying everyday is so beautiful, however it goes against itself here because it mentions there are two sides to the world. This is an inspirational song for an average teenage girl, but as I pointed out there were some contradictions to the lyrics and the meaning. They may want to see themselves as beautiful in every way possible, but the world is a puzzle and there is a piece that is gone because of what has become socially acceptable.
Being gay is a major stereotype in our society and the label that society has given gay and/or lesbian couples is that it is improper act of love for one another. They deal with the common gestures and looks when they show affection towards one another in public places. The lyrics of “Beautiful” give this stereotype a reason to believe that what people say or do does not affect them and they are beautiful to themselves and each other. It seems as though this would be an easy task to master, however it is not. When people
look and point at gay couples, it is human nature to feel singled out and targeted. This song states that We are beautiful no matter what they say/ Yes, words can’t bring us down, oh no. It is trying to help the stereotypes understand that being beautiful is more than the image, it is the inner beauty. Gay people may become ashamed of there orientation because the socially acceptable way to be is straight. This is a double standard of the lyrics, because it states that even if people do act in rude and unkind manners, the gay people will still consider themselves beautiful. But this is not true, because when people do things it affects the targeted groups confidence dramatically. The emptiness in a gay couples life may be trying to become a socially acceptable orientation.
The last analysis is from Christina Aguilera’s point of view and interpretation of the song as the speaker. She is singing the song, so not only will the focus be the lyrics, but also her tone and musical attributes. Referring back to the first line in the song, Christina whispers Don’t look at me. This is an essential double standard considering she is a pop icon and that everyday people are looking at her and she is the center of attention when she enters the room. Her song begins with this aggressive statement, that goes against her being in the spotlight in the production of this song. I think that Aguilera’s view on the topic is quite different from the other perspectives. She is a musical icon, who fit’s the role as the skinny, gorgeous blonde and is writing a song about it. She is blatantly saying that she is beautiful, when the fact is, people see her daily and question their own personal beauty because society has associated beauty with fame and image.
She is wanting to steer away from the stereotypes, but I think that she is reinforcing them by writing this song, when she is a beauty icon herself. The song begins saying that I am beautiful, then says you are beautiful, and finally says we are beautiful. This is banal to me because the audience’s first impression to the song is that beautiful automatically links to Christina Aguilera. The idea that Christina Aguilera created such a powerful song is an amazing thought, however, because of her social position I believe that it took away from the value of the lyrics. She is the ideal image that average teens and stereotypes are striving to become, so when she sings a song with this intensity it is hard for the audience to get past her image. She does wear the flattering dresses to awards shows, she is making a lot of money, and she can wear bright red lipstick without second guessing herself. Christina Aguilera sang a song that was targeting herself as the bad guy because of what society has fabricated as beautiful.
“Beautiful” is a song about accepting people for who they are and not letting the opinions of others influence your personal beauties. This is a social issue in the world because there is an established opinion of what is right and what is wrong. What people think is a huge factor in everyday life. The lyrics urge society to get past the opinion of others and do what fills the emptiness in them. This song stresses for society to put all the pieces of the puzzle back together so that every individual can feel like they are beautiful in every way. With that said, we have to question the double standard of Christina Aguilera. Because she is a icon and musical forefront of our generation I wonder if she created this song to create a bond between her fans and her or to simply sell more records because the song appeals to more than one audience.
The music video of this song which was aired on many television stations like MTV and VH1 shows Christina Aguilera wearing all black in a bare room. The focus goes to people that are all different but the same on the inside. It shows a homo-sexual couple kissing on a public bench, a cross-dresser preparing for a night out, a thin adolescent looking at herself in the mirror, a girl with braces who is beaten up in the woods, a punk on a city bus, and a boy who wants larger muscles. At the end of the video each of these circumstances are revisited and are shown with a sense of achievement.
The gay couple kisses freely on the bench without paying attention to the people around them, the adolescent girl breaks the mirror so that she can not pick apart her flaws, the girl with braces has a huge smile, the young boy flexes, and the punk sits down on the bus with a jock. The video shows a different interpretation of the song rather than the lyrics. The video shows a happy ending without and contradictions and double standards. I think this would be a great ending to a powerful masterpiece of music, but in reality people deal with these social issues daily and are not able to rise above them because society will not allow it.
“Beautiful” would be the ideal song for the basis of society. On the contrary, our society would make that impossible because it is ingrained in us to make observations and inferences of others. Also, we want to appear good to people, so it does matter what people think of you. Christina Aguilera’s vocals during this song are completely astonishing, the lyrics are deep, and the musical arrangement follows the feelings in the song. But, when I put the three together I think they create a double standard. Christina Aguilera can not sing a song about everyone being beautiful and breaking the images of what beauty is when she is the image of beauty. It is a double standard to begin a song with Don’t look at me and then sing about not caring what others think and not being ashamed of our own personal identities. Separately, the lyrics, music, and vocals are powerful masterpieces of art. Together, they are simply a double standard.