Basics was advertised as a tribute to the jazzy belters of yore. But while the throwback liner photos are capable of inspiring octogenarians to give themselves one last tug, the idea can't overcome its gimmicky origins -- which is probably why the most overtly vintage material (including the Peggy Lee-turns-ho epic "Nasty Naughty Boy") is relegated to the second CD. Fortunately, disc one incorporates the concept more organically, and to better effect. "Makes Me Wanna Pray" and "Ain't No Other Man" are soulful smokers, and if "Back in the Day," with its shoutouts to Aretha and Lady Day, is too lyrically on-the-nose, DJ Premier's smart production gives it a modern edge.
An Aguilera album that's not a wall-to-wall pukefest? Stop the presses.