If She Knew What She Wants

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"If She Knew What She Wants"
US If she knew what.jpeg
Artwork for US and Australian vinyl singles
Single by The Bangles
from the album Different Light
B-side"Not Like You" US
"Angels Don't Fall in Love" UK
ReleasedApril 1986
Format45 rpm single/ CD single
Recorded1985
StudioSunset Sound Factory
GenrePop rock
Length3:49
LabelColumbia Records
Songwriter(s)Jules Shear
Producer(s)David Kahne
The Bangles singles chronology
"Manic Monday"
(1986)
"If She Knew What She Wants"
(1986)
"Walk Like an Egyptian"
(1986)
The Bangles UK/ Ireland
singles chronology
"Manic Monday"
(1986)
"If She Knew What She Wants"
(1986)
"Going Down to Liverpool"
(1986)
Music video
"If She Knew What She Wants" on YouTube

"If She Knew What She Wants" is a song written by American singer-songwriter Jules Shear and introduced on his 1985 album The Eternal Return. The Bangles recorded the song for their 1986 album Different Light. That version, a call-and-response rendition with Susanna Hoffs as the main voice,[1] was issued as a single and became a Top 40 hit. A mid-tempo ballad, it is sung from the viewpoint of someone, per songwriter Shear, "who wants to satisfy someone else but doesn't quite know how to do it because the other person is capricious."[2] The song, especially The Bangles' version, is typically described with such adjectives as "bittersweet", "plaintive" and "wistful".[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Original version[edit]

"If She Knew What She Wants" was introduced in 1985 on Jules Shear's second solo album,The Eternal Return, to critical acclaim.[9][10][11][12] John Piekarski of The Atlanta Constitution lauded the song's "melody [as] dreamy and vivacious yet mellow enough [for] adult contemporary radio [airplay]."[13] An album review by High Fidelity assessed Shear's love songs as "astute [being] equal parts compassion, affectionate wit, and armchair psychoanalysis", exemplified by the lyric "If she knew what she wants I'd be giving it to her" which "condenses a self-help manual for the mates of neurotics into a single piercing line."[14] Shear himself would say that he typically imparted his songs with "some little twist that makes [them] rise above" standard pop music fare, and "It doesn't really have to be too complicated to be a little bit different."[2]

Although passed over as lead single on The Eternal Return in favor of the Cyndi Lauper co-written "Steady" (whose Hot 100 peak was no. 57), "If She Knew What She Wants" was tagged as the potential followup with EMI, who sent promo copies to radio stations in June 1985. When no significant airplay resulted, EMI canceled both the single's commercial release and a tour by Shear to support his album.[15][16]

The Bangles version[edit]

Background[edit]

The Bangles recorded "If She Knew What She Wants" for their 1986 album Different Light. Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times would opine that "on... 'If She Knew What She Wants' the Bangles' voices blend with the kind of seductive charm that you swore disappeared the day the Mamas & the Papas called it quits."[17]

The Bangles had spent the autumn of 1984 as the opening act on the Fun Tour by Cyndi Lauper, the singer through whose patronage Jules Shear had first come to the fore, chiefly through Lauper's hit version of Shear's composition "All Through the Night".[3][18] The Bangles themselves would subsequently assist Shear in the promotion of his The Eternal Return album. When Shears had mimed his single—the Lauper co-written "Steady"—on an American Bandstand episode broadcast on 8 June 1985, The Bangles served as faux-backup band.[19] Shear would also co-write The Bangles' track "I Got Nothing" included on the 1985 The Goonies soundtrack.[16][14] Mark Jenkins of The Washington Post would opine that "The Bangles wisely didn't second-guess Shear's version of 'If She Knew What She Wants'; their arrangement of that song... echoes his faithfully—except that they sing better."[20] Vicki Peterson of The Bangles has noted that the group did slightly change Shears' arrangement.[21] Lyrically, some first-person clauses in Shear's recording (ex. "I'm crazy for this girl") are third-person in The Bangles' version (cf. "He's crazy for this girl"). The positioning of the bridge also differs—in Shear's recording the bridge (which begins with "Some have a style") follows the verse that starts with "No sense thinking I could rehabilitate her"; in The Bangles' version, the bridge comes before that verse.[22][23]

Single release and impact[edit]

Overview[edit]

Similar in style to the Different Light lead single "Manic Monday",[24][25][26] "If She Knew What She Wants" was issued as a follow-up single in April 1986 while "Manic Monday" was still cresting (its Hot 100 peak was no. 2). "If She Knew What She Wants" debuted at no. 80 on the Hot 100 dated 10 April 1980, which ranked "Manic Monday" at no. 18. "If She Knew What She Wants" would begin to lose momentum after reaching no. 50 in its third charting week, stalling at no. 29 on the Hot 100 dated 12 July 1986 in the final week of a five-week Top 40 tenure. "If She Knew What She Wants" would spend a total of ten weeks on the Hot 100.[27]

"If She Knew What She Wants" peaked at no. 31 on the UK Singles, which had afforded "Manic Monday" a no. 2 peak.[28] "If She Knew What She Wants" also became a moderate chart success in Australia at no. 31 on the Kent Music Report, and in Canada where it peaked in its 10th week on the RPM 100 Singles chart at no. 29 on 26 July 1986.[29]

A third single release from Different Light—the novelty number "Walk Like an Egyptian"—would solidify The Bangles' popularity as Top 40 hit artists.

Charts[edit]

Chart (1987) Peak
position
Australia (Kent Music Report)[30] 31
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[31] 30
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[32] 20
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[33] 29
Germany (Official German Charts)[34] 17
Ireland (IRMA)[35] 23
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[36] 39
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[37] 20
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[38] 31
US Billboard Hot 100[39] 29
US Adult Contemporary[39] 24

Video and soundtrack usage[edit]

The Bangles shot a promotional video for "If She Knew What She Wants" while on tour in the UK the first week of March 1986, and it was this video that aired in the British Isles and Europe. Upon returning the US, the band shot an alternate video for the song's American promotion, produced by Tamar Simon Hoffs, mother of the track's main vocalist Susanna Hoffs, and directed by Dan Perri.

The Bangles version of "If She Knew What She Wants" is featured in the 2006 Tim Allen and Courteney Cox superhero comedy Zoom.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Daily News-Journal (Murfreesboro TN) 2 February 1986 "Bangles' Four-Part Harmony Blends Well" by Tom Spigolin p.23 (Accent)
  2. ^ a b Palm Beach Post 21 September 1985 "Jules Shear Stands Tall: pop craftsman won't give up" by Jim Presnell p.28 (Section TGIF)
  3. ^ a b Desert Sun (Palm Springs) 1 February 1986 "Bangles Avoid Sophomore Slump on Their Second LP" by Eleni P. Auston p.F7
  4. ^ Lafayette Journal & Courier11 April 1989 "Bangles Taunt, Tease But Slow to Please" by Edith Lee p.C1
  5. ^ Los Angeles Times 7 May 1992 "Shear Talent: the name may not be familiar but Jules Shear is a sought-after songwriter"by Mike Boehm p.8 (Orange County Live!)
  6. ^ Baltimore Sun 3 October 1996 "CD Reviews" by J.D. Considine p.14
  7. ^ Chicago Tribune 10 June 1997 "Hoffs is Appealing, Despite Shortcomings" by Kevin McKeough p.2 (Tempo)
  8. ^ Boston Globe 6 October 2011 "The Bangles Sparkle, Mixing New With the Old" by Mark Hirsch p.B16
  9. ^ Montreal Gazette 9 May 1985 Record Roundup by John Griffin p.D-9
  10. ^ Los Angeles Times 12 May 1985 "Record Rack" by Chris Willman p.57
  11. ^ Newport News Daily Press 1 September 1985 "Record Bin" by Jory Farr p.I5
  12. ^ Vancouver Province 1 September 1985 "Rock Records" by Tom Harrison p.13 (The Magazine)
  13. ^ Atlanta Constution 25 May 1985 "Record Review... Pop" by John Piekarski p.26
  14. ^ a b High Fidelity Vol 35 #9 (September 1985) "Crown Jules" by Joyce Millman p.68
  15. ^ Chicago Tribune 9 September 1988 "A Hit For Others - Shear Looks Out For #1" by Chris Heim p.5-1
  16. ^ a b Hanford Sentinel 15 June 1985 "Songwriter Shares Wealth of Talent" by Frank Spotnitz p.TV-11
  17. ^ Los Angeles Times 15 June 1986 "The Pop World on $25 a Month - a Baedeker" by Robert Hilburn p.60
  18. ^ Pollock, Bruce (March 14, 2013). "They're Playing My Song: Jules Shear - 'All Through The Night'". songfacts.com.
  19. ^ "American Bandstand 111:85 Jules Shear Interview". AwardsShowNetwork. Retrieved August 20, 2019 – via YouTube.
  20. ^ Jenkins, Mark (January 8, 1987). "The Singing Songwriters". The Washington Post – via washingtonpost.com/archive.
  21. ^ Weis, Gary (November 12, 2018). "Interview With Vicki Peterson Of The Bangles". rediscoverthe80s.com.
  22. ^ "Jules Shear – If She Knew What She Wants". Genius. Retrieved September 5, 2019.
  23. ^ "The Bangles – If She Knew What She Wants". MetroLyrics. Retrieved September 5, 2019.
  24. ^ The News (North Jersey) 25 January 1986 "Music Beat" by Mike Daly p.S-3
  25. ^ Philadelphia Daily News 13 February 1986 "Fantastic Plastic" by Jonathan Takiff p.52
  26. ^ Bangles Greatest Hits liner notes by Mark Rowland
  27. ^ https://top40weekly.com/1986-all-charts/
  28. ^ Rock movers & shakers p.27. Billboard Publications, Inc., 1989
  29. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 26. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. N.B. The Kent Report chart was licensed by ARIA between 1983 and 19 June 1988.
  30. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 26. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. N.B. The Kent Report chart was licensed by ARIA between 1983 and June 19, 1988.
  31. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Bangles – If She Knew What She Wants" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  32. ^ "Ultratop.be – Bangles – If She Knew What She Wants" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  33. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 44, No. 6, May 3, 1986". RPM. RPM Music Publications Ltd. May 3, 1986. Archived from the original on October 12, 2014. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
  34. ^ "Musicline.de – Bangles Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  35. ^ "The Irish Charts – All there is to know". Irish Recorded Music Association. Archived from the original on August 4, 2013. Retrieved July 31, 2010.
  36. ^ "Charts.nz – Bangles – If She Knew What She Wants". Top 40 Singles.
  37. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Bangles – If She Knew What She Wants". Swiss Singles Chart.
  38. ^ "Bangles: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  39. ^ a b "Billboard – If She Knew What She Wants – Bangles". Billboard. Nielsen Company. Retrieved July 31, 2010.

External links[edit]