What a Girl Wants

Album: Christina Aguilera (1999)
Charted: 3 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • Shelly Peiken and Guy Roche wrote this song, and Roche also produced it. The song finds Aguilera singing the praises of a guy who knows how to treat a lady and stand by her. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Donovan Berry - El Dorado, AR
  • This was originally named "What a Girl Needs" and pitched to RCA executive Ron Fair under that title. It was Fair who suggested calling it "What a Girl Wants." Shelly Peiken recalled to Bart Herbison of Nashville Songwriters Association International.

    "(The original lyric was) 'What a girl needs, what a girl wants.' He said, "Would you switch (the words)? ... 'Wants' isn't so needy." And the alliteration between the 'what' and the 'wants' was like ear candy. I didn't get it at the time, but I get it now."
  • The song came from a few lyrics written by Peiken on the back of a receipt. She recalled:

    "I had been dating a guy for three years, and I finally got my butt to LA where he was. I started co-writing with lots of people, and I went over to Guy's (Guy Roche) one day and he was freestyling on the keyboard.
    Which prompted me to excavate for a receipt (with lyrics written on it) in my coat jacket about (my now-husband) giving me space when I wanted to move to Los Angeles. New York is a very hard place to leave.

    And this song came from that. Most of my most successful songs, I think, have come from my real life situations. That one did as well. We knew Ron was making a record with Christina, and we played it for him and he asked me for the swap, and it just, it flew."
  • When this song was written, Christina Aguilera was best known for her 1993-1994 on The Mickey Mouse Club. In 1998, she recorded "Reflection" from the film Mulan, which was released as her first single, and she then signed a deal with RCA Records, which gave her plenty of resources, including the top songwriters and producers in pop.

    Her debut album was released in 1999, with "Genie In A Bottle" the first single. Despite being a little age-inappropriate (Aguilera was 18), that song went to #1 and set her on a path to stardom. "What a Girl Wants" was the follow-up, and it also climbed to the top. Another song from the album, "Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)," gave her three #1 hits from her debut.
  • The song was used in the 2000 movie What Women Want, along with another Peiken co-write, Meredith Brooks' "Bitch."
  • In a Songfacts interview with Shelly Peiken, she recalled meeting Aguilera for the first time. "She wasn't glamorous. She was very shy and quiet. We worked with her for a couple of weeks and she tried her voice out on some songs."

    She and Guy Roche considered giving the song to another artist because Aguilera was an unknown, but having her record it was life-changing. "I was reading my daughter Winnie The Pooh when I got the call that we went #1," Peiken said. "As much as I wanted to jump up and down and scream, as a mother, knowing what's most important in life, I couldn't interrupt story time. I finished reading, tucked her under the covers, and sat in the rocker in the dark like I did every night until I was sure she was sleeping. And then I left the room, closed the door gently and jumped up and down in the hallway. I still couldn't scream because that would wake her up. That was the extent of my celebration. And that was enough."
  • Like the "Genie In A Bottle" video, this one was directed by Diane Martel, who had done videos for Mariah Carey, Method Man and Mary J. Blige. It opens with a bit of dialogue, as Aguilera tells her guy, "I got something for you." The gift is a dance routine, showing off some of the skills she learned as a Mouseketeer.
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 1

  • Chelsea from Pa, AzSuch a great pop song to sing your lungs out and dance too!
see more comments

Producer Ron NevisonSong Writing

Ron Nevison explains in very clear terms the Quadrophenia concept and how Heart staged their resurgence after being dropped by their record company.

Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & PalmerSongwriter Interviews

Greg talks about writing songs of "universal truth" for King Crimson and ELP, and tells us about his most memorable stage moment (it involves fireworks).

Annie Haslam of RenaissanceSongwriter Interviews

The 5-octave voice of the classical rock band Renaissance, Annie is big on creative expression. In this talk, she covers Roy Wood, the history of the band, and where all the money went in the '70s.

John WaiteSongwriter Interviews

"Missing You" was a spontaneous outpouring of emotion triggered by a phone call. John tells that story and explains what MTV meant to his career.

Gary Brooker of Procol HarumSongwriter Interviews

The lead singer and pianist for Procol Harum, Gary talks about finding the musical ideas to match the words.

Facebook, Bromance and Email - The First Songs To Use New WordsSong Writing

Do you remember the first time you heard "email" in a song? How about "hater" or "Facebook"? Here are the songs where they first showed up.