What a Girl Wants (Christina Aguilera song)
|"What a Girl Wants"|
|Single by Christina Aguilera|
|from the album Christina Aguilera|
|B-side||"Too Beautiful for Words" "We're a Miracle" "Christina Aguilera medley"|
|Released||November 28, 1999|
|Recorded||1998 (Album version)
September 1999 (Re-recorded version)
|Length||3:52 (Album version)
3:22 (Re-recorded version)
|Christina Aguilera singles chronology|
"What a Girl Wants" is a song by American recording artist Christina Aguilera, taken from her self-titled debut album (1999). A re-recorded version was released on November 28, 1999 by RCA Records as the second single from the album, following the commercial success of the lead single "Genie in a Bottle". The song was written by Shelly Peiken and Guy Roche. The song was completed and pitched to RCA executive Ron Fair as "What a Girl Needs" and was renamed "What a Girl Wants"; Fair later gave the track to Aguilera. A Spanish version of the song, titled "Una Mujer", was included on Aguilera's second studio album Mi Reflejo (2000).
The song was described as a pop and R&B track and had similarities to "Genie in a Bottle". The song received positive reviews from music critics, who described it as a "light" song and compared Aguilera's vocals on the track to those of Mariah Carey. Commercially, the song became her second consecutive US Billboard Hot 100 number-one single, and topped the charts in New Zealand and Spain. The single eventually earned gold certifications in countries including Australia, Belgium, Sweden and the US.
A music video was released directed by Diane Martel who had also directed her previous video for "Genie in a Bottle". The video presented Aguilera dancing in a room with female friends whilst being viewed by their boyfriends and saw a scene of her dressed as a medieval-style princess. In December 1999, the video reached pole position on the US music video chart TRL. Aguilera has performed the song at events such as the US Jingle Ball and the MTV New Year's Eve Special in 1999, as well as her tours including the 2000–01 Christina Aguilera: In Concert, the 2003 Stripped Live... on Tour, and her 2006–07 Back to Basics Tour.
After what was described as an "incredible" response to her debut single, the interest in Aguilera began to grow at which point her record label decided it was time to release a second single. The label and Aguilera disputed over which track should be released, with Aguilera recalling: "You know, some people do want me to stay in the pop scene, [but] I want to grow from there. I always want to continue growing and getting to that level of, 'Oh, she's a real singer, a real ballad-singer, she can do it'." However the announcement then came that "What a Girl Wants" would be released as the follow-up single, with Aguilera saying "The next single will be 'What a Girl Wants', but a totally cool remix of it". The single was not chosen by Aguilera, but instead her record label RCA and label executive Ron Fair. Aguilera herself had little control over the entire project, and a marketing strategy foresaw that Aguilera would have better success as a "teen idol" so in an effort to maintain her persona, music was chosen and recorded under the basis that she would become the next pop phenomenon. The label even requested she remove her surname in an effort to hide her ethnicity, something which she refused at the discovery of an increasingly "fake industry". Aguilera's hectic schedule meant that relationships with friends and family were deteriorating, something which she found increasingly hard to cope with. But ultimately she understood the industry and her drive for success and longevity in her career spurred her on. She stated;
Unfortunately, pop is often about eye-candy [...] It can be hard to be eighteen and to be in this business, [when] your album is huge, and these people twenty years your senior are seeing you as a product. That can be scary. I just wanted to make music, and all of a sudden it was all about this package—what your look is going to be. All these decisions are being made for you.
Writing and recording
Shelly Peiken was the writer behind "What a Girl Wants". One day the pair were working with a cassette tape, experimenting with vocals and hooks, after which she decided that the work-in-progress had potential and she would return to it at a later date.
"What a Girl Wants" was the first track recorded for Christina Aguilera in June 1998. Fair liked the song and after the decision was made to release it as the second single the label called for a second recording of the track, changing the original key in addition to editing rhythmic changes. The second recording came in September 1999 after the success of her debut single "Genie in a Bottle", with Aguilera's label wanting to produce a similar tone.
A 19-second sample of "What a Girl Wants"
|Problems playing this file? See media help.|
"What a Girl Wants" is a teen pop-R&B track with some similarities to her debut single "Genie in a Bottle". Written in the key of C major the track begins with the lyrics "What a girl wants, what a girl needs, whatever makes me happy sets you free" and is set at a tempo 120 beats per minute. Anthony Violanti from Buffalo News described the track as a "light hip-hop song" in comparison to the previous single. Aguilera's vocals have been compared to that of Mariah Carey, with Carey's single "Emotions" being the grounds for these comparisons. In Aguilera's vocal performance she starts singing in a lower register and "carefully" scales notes until she reaches "the highest echelon of her upper register". During the track Aguilera performs the lyrics "A girl needs somebody sensitive but tough, Somebody there when the going get rough." The track that was released as a single was a revised version of the song, it focused more upon the "funky R&B edge", and with Aguilera taking participation in the revision her additions made the track lighter and a mix of "pop and R&B". But despite this Aguilera was disappointed in her lack of input into the single saying;
"I was held back a lot from doing more R&B ad-libbing. They clearly wanted to make a fresh sounding young pop record and that's not always the direction I wanted to go in. Sometimes they didn't get it, didn't want to hear me out because of my age, and that was a little bit frustrating. But I want to write more about experiences I've gone through. I've gone through bad situations. I come from a divorced home. I've been around abuse. I've lived a different life, been on the outside."
Critic Robert Christgau called "What a Girl Wants" "clever" adding "but in a far less ingratiating way", comparing the track to a "two hour promotional video" of Aguilera. Christgau concluded his review by noting "it raises the question of how this ruthlessly atypical young careerist can presume to advise girls not cursed with her ambition, and the fear that some of them will make her a role model regardless". Anthony Violanti from Buffalo News discussed the success behind the record, citing the formula that incorporated teen idols with R&B and pop music releases; Violanti discussed the track calling it a "light track", and despite saying the track had been "buried in production" he concluded it "has a way of selling a song".
Author Pier Dominquez of A Star is Made called the song "a lightweight but pleasant Pop/R&B confection" and stated Aguilera performed "vocal acrobatics" and labelled it a "less effective" Mariah Carey style vocal performance. Nana-Adwoa Ofori of the AOL Radio blog compiled a list of Aguilera's ten best tracks in which she listed "What a Girl Wants" at number nine writing "The huge success of this Christina Aguilera song solidified her as a strong musical force". The song was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 43rd Grammy Awards held on February 21, 2001.
Spanish version "Una Mujer" received positive reviews. Orlando Sentinel editor Parry Gettelman wrote that it holds up to her "out of my way" vocals.
In the United States, the song spent 24 weeks on the US Billboard Hot 100 during which time it topped the chart, becoming her second consecutive US number one single after topping the chart on the issue date of January 15, 2000 for two consecutive weeks, becoming the first #1 song of the 2000s. On the Billboard component charts, the song peaked at number one on the US Pop Songs chart where it spent 26 weeks, and peaked at number 18 on the US Hot Dance Club Songs chart where it spent 11 weeks. The single was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and has sold over 600,000 copies in the US to date. In Oceania, the song performed well. In Australia, the track debuted at number 21 on the issue date of January 9, 2000, where it stayed for a further week. For the next two weeks the single rose up the charts before making its peak at number five on the charts. The track spent a total of 18 weeks on the chart, five of which were spent within the top ten. In New Zealand, the song debuted at number 39 on the singles chart, before jumping to number two the following week. In its third week the track topped the chart on the issue date of February 6, 2000, the single fell to number two the following week, before making its second run at number one on February 20, 2000 and once again falling to number two. On the issue date of March 3, 2000, the track made its third run at number one spending three weeks atop the chart before falling to number three spending a total of 13 weeks on the chart.
In Europe, the song became a number one single in Spain. After debuting at number three, the song topped the chart in its second week on the issue date of January 29, 2000 where it spent just one week before returning to number three and spent eight weeks on the chart. In the United Kingdom, the song debuted and peaked at number three on the issue date of February 26, 2000, the song spent two weeks inside the top ten and thirteen weeks on the chart. In Sweden, the song was certified Gold after spending twelve weeks on the chart and in its seventh week it made its peak at number 24 where it spent two weeks before falling out of the chart four weeks later. The song was also certified Gold in Belgium, after debuting at number 40 on the Flanders chart on the issue date of January 1, 2000 and after spending six weeks on the chart it entered the top ten at number nine before making its peak of number eight were it remained for three weeks. On the Wallonia charts, the song also debuted at number 40 and on its sixth week in the chart it made its peak of number 16 spending just that one week inside the top 20.
The music video for "What a Girl Wants" was directed by Diane Martel who had also directed the music video for her previous single "Genie in a Bottle" and it was choreographed by Tina Landon with the lighting in the video more "defined" than the previous single's allowing a "clearer view" of Aguilera. The video starts with a shot showing men inside a room, performing activities such as cycling and DJ-ing until Aguilera and other females enter the room at which the men turn to watch them enter. The women move the men towards the far-end of the room and after asking the men to cover their eyes, the music begins and the women and Aguilera begin to dance. The video shows solo shots of Aguilera performing in-between footage of the dance, and increasingly the men get excited before getting up to dance as shots of Aguilera atop large speakers is shown. As the dance sequence in the first room ends, the screen moves over the ceiling of the venue and shows Aguilera in a different room dressed similarly to a medieval princess laying on a chaise longue whilst women dance around her with fans. After the bridge section finishes the video cuts back to the dancers in the first room and the video ends with a bird-eye-view shot of everyone in the room surrounding Aguilera and a male character who are intimately dancing. On December 16, 1999 the music video reached pole position on the music video chart, TRL.
Aguilera performed the track during the promotional campaign of Christina Aguilera. Aguilera performed the track in a Milwaukee high school called Franklin High; the performance saw her live in front of 1,300 teenagers in a set list that consisted of three tracks: "Genie in a Bottle", "The Christmas Song" and "What a Girl Wants". Aguilera performed the song on the Jingle Ball for radio station Kiss 108 just days after the release of the music video, continuing promotion for the album. Later in December 1999, Aguilera was chosen to perform on MTV's live New Year's Eve Special, which she commented on beforehand, saying "I'm nervous about what's going to go on that night. Everything's going to be so chaotic", wearing tight leather pants. Aguilera started with a performance of "Genie in a Bottle", continuing into "What a Girl Wants". Aguilera performed the song during the time in which she supported the band TLC on their FanMail concert tour. She also performed the song at the American Music Awards in a medley with the third single from Christina Aguilera, "I Turn to You"; wearing a "tummy-baring bodice", she removed the skirt before performing "What a Girl Wants" in the medley-style performance.
Aguilera performed the track on the VH1 special Men Strike Back, where she once again performed a medley of "I Turn to You" and "What a Girl Wants"; she entered the stage "amid total darkness" with a spotlight aiming at her wearing a black suit. VH1 critic Michael Hill positively commented on her performance, writing "Young Christina Aguilera has a set of diva's pipes already and can cram more notes into a single line than a trio of Mariah's. Though she delivered hits, 'I Turn to You' and 'What a Girl Wants,' with great technical prowess, the real surprise of her set was a rendition of the pre-rock'n'roll-era pop standard 'At Last' with a small jazz combo". After performing with band TLC, Aguilera announced her debut headlining tour, Christina Aguilera in Concert, in which she performed "What a Girl Wants" which she dedicated to the female fans in the audience saying "Girls, I hope you're getting everything you want".
In 2000, Aguilera performed the track on the ABC Christmas Special with "carefully choreographed" dance routines, she sung eight songs including "Gene in a Bottle" and "I Turn to You" ending the special with a performance of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain". She performed the song on Stripped Live... on Tour and it was included on her video release of the concert tour titled Stripped Live in the U.K. which was filmed live in London's Wembley Arena. She also performed the track on her following concert tour titled the Back to Basics Tour; the track was featured on the live video release of the show titled Back to Basics: Live and Down Under. In 2010, while promoting her sixth studio album Bionic on The Early Show, she performed the track in a medley with her debut single "Genie in a Bottle" after a performance of her single "Not Myself Tonight". CBS News commented that the performance was commended by fans.
The song was covered for the first Kidz Bop album, Kidz Bop 1. A cover of the song was also made by the TV series Glee on the episode "Mash-Up", aired on October 21, 2009. Lea Michele's character Rachel delivered a short performance accompanied by a guitar. The song was also covered by contestant Judith Hill on the fourth season of The Voice. Korean idol singers Tiffany Hwang and Jessica Jung of Girls' Generation also covered the song on a Korean TV interview, March 8, 2009.
Track listings and formats
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||Gold||7,500*|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||605,000|
*sales figures based on certification alone
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