I suppose there’s an argument that we should have illustrated this with a screenshot from SWOS ’96…
Martin Skidmore: Electro dance has rather taken over the world, it seems. The Polow da Don production is good here, rather jagged and energetic, and the song, which feels like an attempt to demand that we see Xtina as her generation’s Madonna, and to maybe take back the limelight from the likes of Lady Gaga, has muscle and sinew. What lifts it of course is her extraordinary vocal gifts. I don’t think it’s anywhere near her best performance, but there is no one quite like her, and at times it transforms this into something special.
Michaelangelo Matos: She’s feeling unusual, she’s doing things she’s never done before, and the track sounds exactly like the post-BEP electro littering every other inch of pop right now, up to and including the climactic “toni-i-i-i-i-ight.” And when she follows that with, “That feels good; I needed that,” she isn’t remotely convincing.
Anthony Easton: Is our musical history so denuded that we can no longer remember longer then 6 months past? A remake of Britney ca. “Toxic” remaking Madonna ca. “Human Nature” — bypasses Gaga entirely. Sort of miss her burlesque period.
Alfred Soto: Starts promising with space-age synths, the line “I’m in rare form,” and Aguilera slipping into real-singer mode in the chorus. The rest of the track sounds like Britney in 2001.
Al Shipley: Apparently the worldwide yawn that greeted “Keeps Gettin’ Better” wasn’t loud enough for Christina to hear over her own belting.
Matt Cibula: When all is said and done, she might shoot right up past “this generation’s Madonna” and end up at “this generation’s Donna Summer.” This is about as sexy as it thinks it is, a little slutty but we’ve all been there occasionally; hey, it’s just one night.
Keane Tzong: I cannot get more than 30 seconds into this before the sounds Christina is making are drowned out by my own internal Tyra Banks-style freakout: “I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you! How dare you! Learn something from this! When you go to bed at night, you lay there and you take responsibility for yourself, because nobody’s going to take responsibility for you!” The worst part is that I’m fairly sure Internalized Tyra Banks is more sonically pleasing than whatever’s going on in this song.
Mallory O’Donnell: Oh please, you’ve never been yourself tonight or any night. Oh wait, that’s the point. Oh wait, this is still pretty rudimentary both as song and as third-rate SM tease video.
Edward Okulicz: So after working with Sia and Ladytron and god knows who else and us being promised a bleeding-edge pop experience, we get this as the single? This is just Britney’s “Gimme More” set to the video of Madonna’s “Human Nature”, and is dwarfed by both. Every single Christina Aguilera single seems to be trying hard to be an event, when pretty much all of them are uneventful and this one is pretty much the least eventful of them all.
David Moore: Doing “Gimme More” three years later and ten times worse than Britney isn’t going to get her outside of herself any better than the “throwback” bullshit did, because Christina has no “myself” worth getting outside of and never did. In a sea of robot fetishists, she’s the actual robot who longs to be a real girl. But she’s just wasting the real girls’ oxygen — and seemingly a lot of it.
Jonathan Bogart: It’s unwieldy, granted, a Frankenstein’s monster of beats and riffs and spoken-word intros borrowed from “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, without either the sleek professionalism of her early singles or the bigger-than-God attitude of her middle period. She sounds almost anonymous — almost, she can’t ever be totally anonymous, not with that voice — and the lyric, a pale gesture towards the Club-as-Superheroic-Space trope which has been well explored over the past ten years of pop, is pretty banal. But hearing it over and over again on the radio is making those choices sound more reasonable each time: that long, exhausted-sounding outro/comedown is an acknowledgement of her age, and the high point of the song, in which her voice shorts out in a way that evokes both the circuit overload of feedback and the circuit overload of orgasm, makes that exhaustion sound deserved. It’s hard work being the greatest pop star of our era. I’m not saying she is, but she plays the part beautifully.
Katherine St Asaph: I don’t like that I’m rating this so high. A comeback single should be massive, but this just sounds tepid. The lyrics are atrocious, the nadir surely being “I’m dancing a lot.” Parts of it actively piss me off — “kissing all the boys AND the girls” wasn’t transgressive when Katy Perry did it, and it still isn’t; the entire conceit of “tonight I’m not the same girl” seems like an attempt to adopt a dirty-girl persona (again) without having to commit to it. The video is a sexed-up spot-the-Madonna-or-Gaga-reference drinking game (and why’d she swipe the “Telephone” cell phone product placement, of all things?) But Christina still has a hell of a voice, and it makes up for a lot.
Alex Macpherson: It’s kind of hilarious that the anticipatory press for Christina Aguilera’s imminent album centred around how mind-blowingly innovative it was sure to be, given her work with Ladytron, Le Tigre et al (never mind about how to square “innovative” with these collaborators apparently exhumed from the early ’00s). In the light of that, the lead single actually being an utterly generic third-tier rewrite of the Pussycat Dolls’ “When I Grow Up” without even the slightly mental lyrics is almost a laudable way in which to pull the rug from under our feet. Except it’s really, really boring.