Not Myself Tonight" is a song recorded by American singer and songwriter Christina Aguilera for her sixth studio album, Bionic (2010). It was released by RCA Records as the lead single from the album on April 6, 2010. Produced by Polow da Don and co-written in collaboration with Ester Dean, Jason Perry and Greg Curtis, "Not Myself Tonight" is an electro pop and electro-R&B song, which explores Aguilera's adoption of different personas on the dance floor.
"Not Myself Tonight" received mixed reviews from contemporary music critics: some of whom praised the song's musical style, while others criticize its lyrics. The song peaked at number 23 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. It peaked at number 14 on the Pop Songs chart, and number one on the Hot Dance Club Songs. Elsewhere, the song peaked inside the top twenty of the singles charts in Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The track was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipments exceeding 35,000 copies.
An accompanying music video for "Not Myself Tonight" was directed by Hype Williams, and was released on April 28, 2010. Serving as an homage to the music video for "Human Nature", a song recorded by Madonna, it was described as an S&M-themed visual. To promote the song, Aguilera performed "Not Myself Tonight" at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards, VH1 Storytellers and The Oprah Winfrey Show, amongst others
The music video for the song was filmed from April 7 to April 9, 2010 in Los Angeles, directed by Hype Williams. In a radio interview with Z100 Atlanta, Aguilera said: “I’m more confident and comfortable in my own skin. I think I’m even a more sexual Christina." To celebrate the video premiere, her official site started to release photos from the video. Each day it featured a different look of Aguilera portrayed in the video. The music video officially premiered on Vevo on April 30, 2010. UK music channel 4Music then played the video for the first time on TV at 10:00 a.m. the following day. In an interview with MTV News, Aguilera said that it was the first time she ever crossed paths with Williams. On working with Williams and the new looks she developed in the video, she stated, "...someone with that much of a catalog under his belt and success as a video maker, he's like a legend. So again entering into the collaborating factor, I didn't know what to expect ... and he's probably thinking the same about me. And when we walked away from working with each other, it was just a love connection. I wanted to maintain and keep consistent with the look of the album packaging and book, and I really wanted to keep all that in line, and so he really paid attention, and I think it's really iconic and classic. We totally made magic together on a creative level, it was absolutely amazing. He really got in and listened to where my music was at."
Aguilera also stated that some of the inspiration for the film came from her work in Burlesque, stating, "There is dancing, and I learned so much also as a dancer doing the 'Burlesque' film, moving my body in ways that were, I feel, never as precise before. Dancing always came sort of secondary to me. Vocals were my first love and where my heart really was. I never was as passionate about dancing, per se, but after 'Burlesque,' I really fell in love and I adapted that in the dancing for 'Not Myself Tonight,' but it was really, really fun to take what I learned from the movie." She also commented, "A lot of that [video] was based on my visual inspiration," she explained. "I took Hype into my salon area in my home ... it's like my creative den. He took the ideas and then took other ideas and related to the ideas, and it just was really iconic imagery." The video itself features a strong sexual theme with scenes of S&M and bondage, as well as scenes in a church and several prestigious-looking buildings. Aguilera wore several hairstyles and outfits, including many which were dominatrix-style.
Influences and conceptAccording to Aguilera, the music video of "Not Myself Tonight" is a tribute to the pop star Madonna, citing her music videos as its major influence, most notably "Express Yourself" (1989). She said "One of my favourite videos ever is 'Express Yourself' by Madonna which came across as really strong and empowering which I always try to incorporate through my expression of sexuality [...] I love the direct reference I made to Madonna with the eye glass moment and the smoke and stairs. I was paying tribute to a very strong woman who has paved the way before." James Montgomery from MTV News noted "Truthfully, there are several Madonna videos referenced in "Not Myself Tonight," but especially this iconic 1989 clip helmed by David Fincher [Express Yourself]. More than anything, it appears to be the primary influence on Aguilera's clip, from the monocle Xtina wears to the Fritz Lang-ian sets." He also said that the S&M features in the video were reminiscent of her video for "Human Nature", commenting, "The influence on "Tonight" is pretty evident, most notably in Christina's leather get-ups, her dominatrix attitude and the sultry chair-related activities she engages in throughout."
Aguilera goes back and forth between several hairstyles in the video, which have been compared to styles of Bettie Page, Beyoncé, Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani. She also appears in a similar style as in her video for "Lady Marmalade". Aguilera also recalls her "Dirrty" video, in which she rides on the front and back of a sweaty shirtless man. Gil Kaufman of MTV News ran through the video, naming, "riding crops, a handful of F-bombs, sexy, see-through skimpy raincoats, shirtless dancing in the rain and a throwdown in a church that ends with a writhing group grope." Kaufman also commented, "Most of the clip, in fact, unfolds as a virtual video catalog for fetishwear, including black leather undies, a chainmail bikini top and a bedazzled outfit that consists of little more than strategically placed silver chains and pasties connected to wrist and ankle manacles."
As with the song itself, several critics praised the video for its return to Aguilera's Stripped era, however some disliked the video's unoriginality and dirty vibe. James Montgomery of MTV News called the video "jaw-dropping" with Aguilera "the pop star getting back to her "Dirrty" roots". Bill Lamb of About.com dismissed claims that the video was trying to "out dirty" artists such as Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Rihanna, stating that the song gave a good indication of what the video might be like. Lamb also commented, "Bondage and fetish wear are increasingly prevalent across the spectrum in pop music and pop culture imagery." He also said that the video was aesthetically "gorgeous" and that director Hype Williams "gives the clip a crisp, clean, colorful look that is arresting."
Tanner Stransky of Entertainment Weekly, commented that the video was very much like Lady Gaga, but said it was even more like Madonna. He also noted that, "When it comes to Madonna, nearly every pop star has taken pieces of her performances/styling/etc", and "With the Gaga argument, can we really fault Christina for taking from Gaga, when Gaga herself has so ripped from a variety of other artists?" Stransky also noted that Aguilera did indeed seem desperate in the "unoriginal" clip, saying that she had been gone for a long time and now "clawing for relevancy", but "maybe she should have gone in a totally different direction to avoid comparisons". Daniel Kreps from Rolling Stone stated that "Aguilera assumes no less than a dozen different guises, all scantily clad, ranging from carbon copies of Lady Gaga (borrowing heavily from her unique wardrobe), Madonna, Beyoncé, Gwen Stefani, the girls from Robert Palmer's "Simply Irresistible" video and Michelle Pfeiffer's S&M-inspired Catwoman from Batman Returns. Despite the video's attempt to shock, it's unlikely Aguilera will ever out-Gaga Gaga or out-controversy Madonna. ... Hopefully next time she steps in front of the lens she'll be more herself and less like everyone else" Kreps did state that the video's "steaminess" made up for the unoriginality.
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