You Gotta Be

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"You Gotta Be"
You gotta be.jpg
Original CD single cover
Single by Des'ree
from the album I Ain't Movin'
Released28 March 1994
27 February 1995 (re-release)
22 March 1999 (1999 Mix)
LabelSony Soho Square
  • Des'ree
  • Ashley Ingram
Producer(s)Ashley Ingram
Des'ree singles chronology
"You Gotta Be"
"I Ain't Movin'"

"Little Child"

"You Gotta Be"

"Kissing You"

"God Only Knows"

"You Gotta Be"

"Ain't No Sunshine"

"You Gotta Be" is a R&B and soul song by British singer Des'ree, written by the singer with the track's producer, Ashley Ingram. It was the third song on Des'ree's second album I Ain't Movin', and the first song on that album's US version.

The song was released as a single around the world in 1994, becoming a top-forty hit in several countries and a top-ten hit in the United States and Australia. As of 13 June 1998 the single sold 358,000 copies in United States, and it received Gold certifications in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The song was used in several television advertisements over the following years, and a 1999 remix single became a top-ten hit in Des'ree's native UK and a number-one hit in Spain. In 2003, Q Magazine ranked "You Gotta Be" at number 562 in their list of the "1001 Best Songs Ever".[1]


Described by Stuart Elliott in The New York Times as "an infectiously sunny tune about the affirmative powers of self-confidence,"[2] "You Gotta Be" according to Des'ree is, like all the songs on its parent album, "about having the inner strength to figure out who you are" with "You Gotta Be" specifically being "born out of me stopping myself and thinking every day how you gotta be something. You have to be cool and calm in [one] situation, and then you have to be bold and strong in another situation."[3] Des'ree drew inspiration for "You Gotta Be" from the Shakti Gawain book Creative Visualization which had abetted the singer's recovery from a painful romantic break-up; "I've always been blindly optimistic, and that [book] helped me rise from my melancholia," explains Des'ree who it is said "swears by daily affirmations."[4]

"You Gotta Be" was released several times in the United Kingdom: first in March 1994, it was then re-released in February 1995 after it had become a USA top 10 hit, and in 1999 in a remixed version because of its use in the 1999 Ford Focus advertising campaign and following the success of Des'ree's previous singles "Life" and "Kissing You". The latter release of "You Gotta Be" charted in its highest position out of all three releases in the United Kingdom, peaking at No. 10. This version, entitled the "1999 Mix" was added to a re-issue of her third studio album Supernatural. The original release first charted in September 1994 in the United States and slowly climbed the charts peaking at No. 5 in March 1995, and staying 44 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. The remixed version of the song was a number-one hit in Spain for two weeks in February and March 1999.

Critical reception[edit]

AllMusic editor Tom Demalon described the song as "uplifting" and noted that it "best exemplified Des'ree's smooth blend of pop/R&B music and power-of-positive thinking lyrical style."[5] Larry Flick from Billboard wrote that "adventurous artist delves into her new "I Ain't Movin'" album, pulling out this percussive mover. Des'ree has a deep alto range and a compelling style that renders anything she sings a sophisticated musical gift. At a time when jockin' a new-jill-swing position is the name of the R&B radio game, single has an iffy future. Justice prevailing, though, programmers with minds of their own (and a modicum of good taste) will give this one a fair shot. Otherwise, punters should take this information and go find the album on their own. It's well worth the effort."[6] Michele Romero from Entertainment Weekly deemed the song as "deliciously hypnotic", adding that it "sounds like a mini-motivational seminar".[7] Dave Sholin from Gavin Report stated, "On her own this time around, she delivers a mid-tempo gem about being one's own person. The lyrics are positive and hopeful—perfect for summertime."[8] Mike Wass from Idolator wrote, "A relentlessly upbeat self-help anthem with a mantra-like chorus, the track was a much-needed ray of light at the height of grunge, and can still be heard in lifts and doctor’s waiting rooms today."[9] Music & Media commented, "In her only two-year absence a whole new generation of soul dames have taken over her position of most promising newcomer. Gabrielle's Dreams must have been model for this reply."[10] Alan Jones from Music Week noted, "Folksily soulful in its original version, a remix adds a slow, muscular bass and other elements that leave it sounding like a suave second cousin to the Isley Brothers' Between The Sheets."[11] John Kilgo from The Network Forty called it a "superb" track.[12] Bob Waliszewski of Plugged In said it is "heeding parental wisdom".[13]

Music video[edit]

The music video for the song was directed by Paul Boyd, and is filmed in color, but it was removed during post-production. In 1995, it was nominated in the category of "Best Female Video" at that year's MTV Video Music Awards, but lost to Madonna's "Take a Bow".

Track listings[edit]

1994 release[edit]

CD maxi – UK

  1. "You Gotta Be" – 4:04
  2. "Sun of 79" – 5:14
  3. "You Gotta Be" (Frankie Foncett mix) – 5:18
  4. "You Gotta Be" (after hours mix) – 4:30

CD maxi – UK

  1. "You Gotta Be"
  2. "You Gotta Be" (Blacksmith 7" radio edit)
  3. "You Gotta Be" (Blacksmith 12" mix)
  4. "Warm Hands, Cold Heart"

12" maxi – UK

  1. "You Gotta Be" (Frankie Foncett mix)
  2. "You Gotta Be" (the max)
  3. "You Gotta Be" (after hours mix)
  4. "You Gotta Be" (hourglass mix)
  5. "You Gotta Be" (love will save the day mix)

1995 release[edit]

CD single 1 – Europe

  1. "You Gotta Be" – 4:01
  2. "Warm Hands, Cold Heart" – 4:35

CD single 2 – Europe

  1. "You Gotta Be" – 4:01
  2. "Warm Hands, Cold Heart" – 4:35
  3. "Sun of 79" – 5:15

CD maxi – Europe

  1. "You Gotta Be" – 4:03
  2. "You Gotta Be" (Blacksmith mix) – 5:29
  3. "You Gotta Be" (Frankie Foncett mix) – 5:18
  4. "You Gotta Be" (love will save the day) – 4:03

12" maxi – UK

  1. "You Gotta Be" (Blacksmith mix)
  2. "You Gotta Be" (Frankie Foncett mix)
  3. "You Gotta Be" (love will save the day)

CD single – Promo – France

  1. "You Gotta Be" (love will save the day) – 4:04

1999 Mix[edit]

CD single 1 – UK

  1. "You Gotta Be" (1999 Mix) – 3:57
  2. "You Gotta Be" (Tin Tin Out Remix)
  3. "Soul Paradise"

CD single 2 – UK

  1. "You Gotta Be" (1999 Mix) – 3:57
  2. "Life" – 3:36
  3. "You Gotta Be" – 4:06

Cassette – UK

  1. "You Gotta Be" (1999 Mix) – 3:57
  2. "You Gotta Be" – 4:06

Charts and sales[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

"You Gotta Be" has been covered by:

  • Ethel Ennis on her 1998 album If Women Ruled the World.
  • Patti Austin as her contribution to the 2003 album Church – Songs of Soul and Inspiration, also included on her 2011 album Sound Advice.
  • Natalie Cole on her 2006 album Leavin'.
  • British/Japanese singer MiChi on her 2008 album MiChi Madness.
  • Japanese emo band Nature Living on their album 2008 album After All.
  • DJ Okawari featuring vocals by Amadori, on his 2009 album Mirror.
  • Ronan Parke on his 2011 debut album Ronan Parke.
  • Murray Head on his 2012 album My Back Pages
  • Telly Leung on his 2015 album Songs for You
  • Kiera Weathers as a single in 2017
  • Australian duo Bombs Away covered the song in 2019, featuring vocals of Reigan.
  • Embody on his track "Be Cool" (feat. Bailey & Marco Foster)

Media appearances[edit]

In April 1994, it was used by Sky Movies, for their summer preview commercial. In March 1995, ABC began airing an ad campaign for Good Morning America, aimed at attracting a younger demographic and also boosting male viewership, in which Des'ree's "You Gotta Be" played under scenes of "Americans immersed in morning rituals: commuters rushing, a young man shaving, school-bound children" intercut with shots of the Good Morning America hosts.[2]

Also in 1995, the song and music video were parodied by Ellen Cleghorne (playing OJ Simpson's first wife Marguerite Whitley but visually resembling Des'ree) during a Season 20 episode of Saturday Night Live. While Luscious Jackson were the musical guests that episode, Des'ree herself performed both the song and "Feel So High" as the musical guest two episodes later. The song was also used for Ford's Focus commercial between 1998 and 1999.

This song was featured in the films The Next Karate Kid and The Object of My Affection. It was also used in a special promo for PBS Kids shown every Martin Luther King Jr. Day between 2001 and 2006. A cover of the song was also featured in an episode of Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23.

After being dropped from Sony in 2004, Des'ree did not allow the use of the song in films, television shows (including Glee[52] and Happy Endings[53]) or commercials. However, upon her return to the music industry in 2019, the song was re-licensed, with the song being used in the film Captain Marvel and the episode of the TV show PEN15, "Dance".

A reworked version of this song was used in the Big Sing 2008. The Big Sing raised money for CLIC Sargent and Marie Curie with hundreds of schools singing this song at the same time across the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, breaking the record for "most people simultaneously singing the same song".[54]

In 2019, the song was featured in an episode of the ABC series, Schooled. ABC used the song again in the series finale of Fresh Off the Boat, which aired in February 2020.

In 2021, the song was featured in CW's The Flash.


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  2. ^ a b Elliott, Stuart (6 March 1995). "Pop music takes center stage in a 'Good Morning America' campaign to attract younger viewers". New York Times. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  3. ^ Billboard vol 107 No. 4 (28 January 1995) p.12
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  8. ^ Sholin, Dave (24 June 1994). "Gavin Picks: Singles" (PDF). Gavin Report. p. 54. Retrieved 18 October 2020.
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  11. ^ Jones, Alan (4 March 1995). "Talking Music" (PDF). Music Week. p. 10. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
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  37. ^ "Íslenski Listinn Topp 40 (NR. 318 Vikuna 9.4. – 16.4. 1999)". Dagblaðið Vísir (in Icelandic). Retrieved 14 July 2018.
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  50. ^ "British single certifications – Des'ree – You Gotta Be". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  51. ^ Sexton, Paul (13 June 1998). "550 Music's Des'ree Gets 'Supernatural' on 3rd Set". Billboard. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^ Big Sing 2008

External links[edit]