They say music is good for the soul and can cheer you up in times of sadness or darkness. We all have a song that we can relate to. Sometimes it’s because of the lyrics, other times it’s because the singer’s voice has that gorgeous tone and emotive quality to it that we instantly love listening to and can feel and believe what they’re singing. For me, Christina Aguilera is one of those rare, ultimate voices that can do just that. One of my all-time favourite songs of hers that I could listen to all day is ‘Soar’ from her iconic 2002 album, Stripped.
While the album as a whole is mainly full of songs that talk about sad, lonely, dark and troublesome times in her personal life, it’s songs like the gospel-inspired ‘Soar’ which are there to switch it up. They tell us ‘hey, it’s not all doom and gloom’, to look on the positive side of things and to take control of your own life and destiny.
The song’s lyrical content is very similar to the album’s second and fifth singles, ‘Beautiful’ and ‘The Voice Within’. Christina sings about not listening to other people’s negative opinions, not allowing anyone to stop you from pursuing your dreams or doing things your own way and about not feeling the need to conform or change for anyone just to fit in. The second verse, which goes ‘The boy who wonders, is he good enough for them? / Keeps trying to please them all, but he just never seems to fit in’, spoke to me specifically when I first heard it. It was around the time of my first few years of secondary school when I definitely didn’t feel like I fit in and insecurities made it hard for me to make a huge number of friends. The situation repeated itself later when I first joined university.
Just like the song’s title, Christina’s versatile voice soars majestically and effortlessly, spanning over three octaves – even hitting a note in her rarely used whistle register. It’s in this song that your spirits are not only lifted by the inspirational lyrics and upbeat tempo, but you’re left in awe by her vocal agility and her naturally warm and light timbre (compared to the rougher, deeper sound she usually uses in songs such as ‘Fighter’, for example). Although some critics usually accuse of her over-singing and throwing in riffs and runs whenever she can, here she employs and controls it masterfully. But hey, this is gospel singing, so letting loose vocally is expected. When it comes to gospel music I may not be religious, but I can’t help but getting lost in their songs and really feeling the soul they unleash to instantly cheer me up when I’m feeling low. Unfortunately, along with some of my other favourite tracks on the album, she never sung it live, nor does she experiment with the gospel genre as much I’d like her to.
Although my emotional connection to ‘Soar’ is not as strong as with others, I feel good listening to it as I think back to Christina recording it during a tough time in her life and trying to find herself as an artist. You can hear how much happier she seems and how confident she sounds singing the lyrics, compared to the anger and depression she emotes in other tracks on the album.