Christina Aguilera Meets Salvador Dalì: The Red Lips Obsession

I don’t know how many of you are counting the days before June 8th, the official date for the release of Bionic, the fourth studio album by Christina Aguilera. I honestly cannot wait, because she’s my favourite singer and I’ve been waiting from some new music from her for so long. If you remember my reaction to Not Myself Tonight music video, you should know my disappointment, which has soon turned into excitement when I listened to other tracks leaking from the album, in particular Woohoo (featuring Nicki Minaj) and You Lost Me, that she sang at the American Idol finale in the end of May. Before the release of the album, I’m looking forward to her performance at the MTV Movie Awards on June 6th; in the meantime, the artwork created by Alix Malka for Bionic has been published in several websites, and it has proved once more Christina’s obsession for red lips [1].

These pics by Malka underline the sexy/aggressive vibe of Not Myself Tonight but are – thank God – much more classy are refined. I love the one where Christina’s face is under a rhinestone-accented birdcage veil. In all the pictures the focus is on are her shiny red lips, a recurring theme in the artwork.

Graphic red lips – leaving a red mark behind – can be found in the same booklet. When I first saw this illustration, my mind immediately went to one of my favourite musical movies ever, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) by Jim Sharman, based on the 1973 stage production by Richard O’Brien (in the movie, he’s Riff Raff).

It’s clear Alix Malka and Christina took inspiration from the movie, its playbill and imagery for the artwork of Bionic, and I’m glad they did, because The Rocky Horror Picture Show is such a gold mine, when it comes to the concept of sexy (and funny and ironic, I add). The opening credits feature a mouth with red lips singing an amazing song – Science Fiction/Double Feature [2]: the lips assume a magical quality, they apparently are independent, they come out of the dark and apparently don’t belong to anybody. This idea of the part for the whole can be referred to one of the most interesting works of modern art, the infamous Mae West’s lips sofa (1936-37), a creation of satin and wood by Salvador Dalì. The visionary Spanish artist was inspired by the actress Mae West to create The Face of Mae West, a surrealist apartment, in 1934, of which the lips sofa was just a component.

The same idea can be found on the cover of Girls by the Prodigy, a single released in 2004 and extracted from the album Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned.

The reference to the sofa by Dalì is very strong – the shocking pink lipstick echoes the shocking Schiaparelli pink satin of one of the sofas produced. Here another theme is hinted at, because this mouth has got big canine teeth, so it makes us believe that maybe it belongs to a vampire.

Speaking of lips apparently not belonging to anybody, the unique photography by Miles Aldridge has come to my mind. He has made several sets of pictures of bright-coloured lips for beauty editorials, and I think they all have been very influenced by the movie by Sharman and by Dalì’s sofa. Unique Colours was published on Vogue Italia in 2000: four lips wearing four different shiny lipsticks emerge from a black background and float like ghosts in the darkness.

Aldridge has always had a taste for hyper-realistic pictures and for emphasizing particular body parts in his photos. Spot the Fake was published on the New York Times Magazine in 2006:  the shiny blood-red lips hold a massive topaz and diamond ring; they don’t emerge from darkness, but the whiter-than-white face which they are part of, functions as a neutral background.

Christina’s obsession for red lips is not limited to make-up, because in her recent trip to New York, she has sported t-shirts and accessories with the mark of red lips on them.

She picked a Lulu Guinness red-lip-clutch to give a pop of colour to a black and white ensemble.

She wore a Wildfox Couture tank with an interesting print – hot pink lips with some blood dripping off the canine teeth (maybe this print was inspired by the Prodigy’s single cover).

And she also wore another white tank with stylized and dripping red lips on the front, pairing it to a black leather motorcycle jacket and David Lerner ripped leggings.

Christina is just one of the many fans of red lipstick: powerful women like Diane Vreeland, artists like Paloma Picasso or Isabella Blow, iconic movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and the Queen of Burlesque, Dita Von Teese, have all elected red lips as one of their trademarks, because they’re extremely feminine and sexy, an out-of-time weapon of seduction.

What do you think of red lips? Yay or nay? And are you looking forward to listening to Bionic?

[1] I think she looks gorgeous when all the focus of the make-up is on her lips, while the rest is nearly bare. As for me, I can totally get the reason why red lipstick is a security blanket for her: whenever I wear a red lipstick, I immediately feel better, more confident and beautiful, maybe because it’s the most glamourous lip colour ever. I don’t know which shade Christina uses, but two amazing red lipsticks I’ve recently discovered are by MAC – So Scarlet and Ruby Woo, stunning.

[2] Here is a nice acoustic rendition of the same song, performed by Richard O’Brien. Cute!

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4 comments

  1. Commento in italiano, che in inglese al momento mi è davvero di troppo sforzo… >_>
    Adoro la foto di copertina e l’immagine delle gambe robotiche abbassate!, il connubbio christina sexy labbra e retro fantascienza lo trovo davvero molto di classe.
    Peccato che il booklet sia stato riempito di una quantità eccessiva di foto a mio avviso anche fuori contesto; personalmente preferisco poche immagini integrate in un bel progetto grafico, come quello che la cover (stupenda) lasciava presagire.

  2. She didn’t copy The Rocky Horror Show. I mean just for having red lips on a black background doesn’t mean she copied them otherwise she would have said so if she did.

    She said she was inspired by Pop Art and Andy Warhol, with the whole red lipstick artwork. The red lip concept was inspired by Mae West, a classic pin up actress. Christina has said before that she was influenced by all these classic Hollywood pin up girls.

    She said she was fan of The Prodigy since age 15 and were the inspiration behind ‘Bionic’… for example, the bright lips and black bacground came from the Prodigy’s ‘Girl’ single cover artwork.

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