This is the second version of a song written in the same US trip as All Along. The first version exists, but is too similar to bother posting as well. So you’ll be delighted to know you’re listening to something with slightly better drum programming than I was actually capable of in Summer ’08.
Are you a ‘Death of the Author’ style critic? Are you all about close reading and intrinsic criticism? Or is it all about new-historicism? Is context inescapable and all-important, and do words mean nothing on a page in a vacuum?
The former type of person would say this about What You Want: its lyrics clearly form part of the most significant trope of all electronic music: sex. It’s man + woman promising each other sexual paradise, with driving, euphoric, hypnotic music accompanying and heightening the impact of this promise.
The latter would say this: yuck, is that his sister he’s singing to?
Yes it is. Being the most gifted and available female vocalist on my family holiday in America, I did indeed get my sister to sing the main ‘What you want’ hook in this song. It was my first foray into this sort of music, and I thought I should probably stick by the rulebook, lyrically. I then added in the reply, ‘I’ll give it’, to complete a harmonious and potentially incestuous picture.
Now, obviously, to me this wasn’t problematic. We were just playing dress up in song form, singing lyrics so bland they carry no real message. But there has always been a slight tension in showing people the song who might be able to spot who the two vocalists are. ‘Yes it is my sister.’ ‘No I don’t think it’s weird.’ ‘Yes I know it’s a good song, thank you.’
Anyway, biographical context aside, there is something fun about What You Want. It builds steadily until it becomes genuinely quite euphoric. The electronic production means there are no dodgy instrument moments. The repeated vocal samples mean there are no dodgy singing moments. I enjoy the predictability of it. You know that after every 8 or 16 bars, something else is going to come in.
It’s always made me think of a relaxed daytime beach bar, or a journey sometime in the late afternoon. Which is why I’ve attached a blurry picture of a boat sailing into the sunset. It’s a stock-image type of song, I think.
It never really felt that significant to me, at the time. I think it’s because I had no desire to make music like this when I was 16, nor did I listen to much music like it. But as I got older it grew on me. Vague memories a few years later of a friend walking round in circles to this song, a song with similar but better emotional rises:
whilst in another room a different intoxicated friend and I listened to What You Want on headphones and he told me how great he thought it was.
And then, only a few months ago, someone told me they had been in Newcastle at a friend’s flat when a song had come on the speakers. She was convinced she had heard it before so she asked him what it was. He said she definitely wouldn’t know. But she went over to check, and it was What You Want. He had downloaded it whilst it was still up on my original Soundcloud, which is astonishing given that it had less than 200 plays in total, and almost all of them must have been from friends and family.
So, it’s a song that is mildly good. And now that I do like music like this more, I guess it is potentially one of my favourites up until this point.