For the black and white cover of her eighth studio album, Liberation, the 37-year-old "Accelerate" singer wanted to appear bare-faced, to liberate herself from the over-the-top looks of yesteryear. "I still love getting glammed up, but I want to show imperfections on this go-round. It's scary, but I'm up for the challenge," she says in Cosmopolitan's October issue, available Sept. 4. "You can't tell me something I haven't already heard about myself anyway."
Aguilera has been stripped down before, but in a different way. The Grammy winner first experimented with a new look when she released her sophomore album, Stripped, in 2002—and after taking more creative control of her music, she rebranded herself with "Dirrty," a raunchy song featuring Redman, and a makeover that included black hair and multiple piercings. To Aguilera's chagrin, her provocative look sometimes overshadowed her artistry. "It's hard to hear yourself being called names. I remember being hurt by these commercials on MTV, pitting [Britney Spears] as the good girl and me as the bad girl. It's like, if I'm going to be demure and innocent, that's OK," Aguilera says. "But if I'm going to just be myself, I'm trouble."