Album: Back To Basics
Christina Aguilera wishes she could have another day to share with her favorite aunt in the visceral ballad “Hurt.”
A funereal piano and honoring strings open the single, setting a remorseful tone. In the first verse, she remembers the last time she saw her aunt. Her aunt congraluted her on the promotion she received. Her aunt told her she knew she would be able to do it. However, she blew her aunt off, saying “whatever.” A month later, her aunt had found a cancerous tumor and within a few months, she was gone.
“Seems like it was yesterday when I saw your face/You told me how proud you were but I walked away/If only I knew what I know today.”
Later on in the verse, she says she would visit her aunt, cradle her in her arms, telling her she’s there. She would help take care of her. She would show her appreciation for the encouragement her aunt gave her over the years. She would apologize for resenting her divorcing her uncle. If she could only hear tell another story about her crazy college years and meeting “Mr. Kinda Right.” When she gets good news or something bizarre happened that day, she almost dials her aunt’s number. But as she stops mid-dial, she remembers she’s not there to answer anymore.
“I would hold you in my arms/I would take the pain away/Thank you for all you've done/Forgive all your mistakes/There's nothing I wouldn't do/To hear your voice again/Sometimes I want to call you but I know you won't be there.”
In the chorus, she apologizes for taking out her frustration on her aunt. It wasn’t her fault she wasn’t able to get the job or move to New York. With her every shout, she caused her aunt to cry. In between tears, she would say “I wish we would’ve let you go.” Aguilera would then stomp off into her room and sob.
“I'm sorry for blaming you for everything I just couldn't do/And I've hurt myself by hurting you.”
In the second verse, she now feels empty and numb. But to the rest of her family she puts on a smile and joins in the laughter, even though it’s hollow. She wants to stay inside most days and breathe in her presence. It’s difficult those days to simply let the memories pass in her mind and not wonder what could’ve been. She thinks if her aunt would tell her she should’ve said those things. She wonders if they would’ve talked it out and reached some middle ground. She looks up, wondering if her aunt is watching her and beaming? She wants to have the opportunity to kiss her aunt on the forehead and say goodbye. Those sharp eyes of hers never failed to stop her.
“Some days I feel broke inside but I won't admit/Sometimes I just want to hide 'cause it's you I miss/You know it's so hard to say goodbye when it comes to this/Would you tell me I was wrong?/Would you help me understand?/Are you looking down upon me?/Are you proud of who I am?/There's nothing I wouldn't to do/
To have just one more chance/To look into your eyes and see you looking back.”
The chorus is sung again.
In the bridge, she says if she could bring her aunt back she would embrace her. She would tell her how much she meant to her. It messes with the laws of nature and a selfish act, but she doesn’t care. The one day would be spent saying all the things she wanted to, but couldn’t. They would go shopping and she would confide in her aunt about her doubts.
“ If I had just one more day, I would tell you how much that/I've missed you since you've been away/Oh, it's dangerous/It's so out of line/To try to turn back time.”
In the final chorus, a mournful violin plays as she says the final words.
The petty arguments over curfew, dates, and choice of restaraurants with her aunt seems foolish to Aguilera now. Through her teen years, she never stopped loving her, although she didn’t agree with the rules. After their falling out, she lived on her own and didn’t talk to her. It wasn’t until she received the call from her uncle that she learned her aunt was dying. Throughout the funeral, she was in a daze and couldn’t talk. A month later, it sunk in that her aunt was no longer there.
Aguilera’s bereaved, bare vocals are poignant and commanding. She pushes her vocals as far as they can go and then pulls them even more. It’s a raw performance of emotion and her best to date.
The observing arrangement pays its respects with a sorrowful bow (from the violin), inconsolable strings and forlorn piano.
The intense “Hurt” is a demanding listen and one of the top singles of the year.
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