The name game: ranking 10 different songs called ‘I Want You’

Bob Dylan Blonde on Blonde vinyl

OK, everyone knows the drill by now: for these Name Game posts, I examine and rank 10 different songs with the exact same title. I did this with “Crazy,” then “Time,” and now it’s time to look into some of the many tunes called “I Want You.”

Sorry, Beatles fans, but “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” was ineligible due to those darn parentheses …

10. Kings of Leon – “I Want You”

At some point several years ago, Kings of Leon got hugely popular, selling out arenas everywhere they went and scoring one hit single after another. Remember that? It was weird. Anyway, Kings of Leon’s “I Want You” is a random track from 2008’s Only by the Night, and it’s not very good. I think they were just making it up as they went, and the cowbell is mixed unusually high compared to everything else. I don’t really have anything else to say about this one … if I never hear it again, I’ll be pretty stoked.

9. Bon Jovi – “I Want You”

By the time Bon Jovi released 1992’s Keep the Faith, the band had turned the corner from 80s arena rock to a slick, ballad-heavy approach. Bob Rock, a.k.a. the guy who famously neutered Metallica, produced the record, which featured the hits “Keep the Faith” and “Bed of Roses.”

“I Want You” is a perfect example of the band’s sound at that time, featuring a slow tempo, a lot of piano, and an over-the-top chorus. I have a soft spot for what Bon Jovi was doing around this time, because I listened to so much of it when I was first discovering rock and roll, but this is still pretty rough. If I want to hear the band belt out a ballad, I’ll just turn to “Bed of Roses,” “This Ain’t a Love Song,” or even “Blaze of Glory” from the Young Guns II soundtrack. “I Want You,” though, is about as forgettable as music gets. I could hear it 100 times and still wouldn’t be able to come up with one interesting thing to say about it.

Hey, at least it’s better than “It’s My Life”!

8. Common – “I Want You”

Common’s “I Want You” is from 2007’s Finding Forever, the second Common album in a row to be primarily produced by Kanye West. This specific track is sadly produced by will.i.am and not Kanye, which is about as disappointing as finding out a guitar part was played by Billie Joe Armstrong instead of Mick Jones.

I liked most of Finding Forever when it was first released, and I really liked 2005’s Be, but “I Want  You” actually falls a little flat. The drums kick and all, but the melody is weak, and will.i.am’s vocal contributions do absolutely nothing. Even Common’s rhymes here are pretty bad: This here was made before we were born, he says. A dreamer, so I’m a keep dreaming on/ It’s kinda like the breakup of Jen and Vince Vaughn.

I love you, Common, but not this time …

7. Janet Jackson – “I Want You”

Janet Jackson’s “I Want You,” from 2004’s Damita Jo, is noteworthy for being produced by a young Kanye, and if that isn’t enough, it was also co-written by a young John Legend. Crazy, right?

Unfortunately for everyone involved, the world’s ridiculous reaction to Jackson’s Super Bowl halftime show led to this album not getting nearly the mainstream attention it would have otherwise. But it’s still a slick, enjoyable slice of R&B, thanks more to West’s production than anything Jackson herself does on the track.

6. KISS – “I Want You”

As much as I can’t stand Gene Simmons and have never been that big of a KISS fan in general, I admit that their first several albums have their moments. “I Want You” was the opening track from 1976’s Rock and Roll Over, and what stand out the most is the song’s Boston-like guitar part. For almost 20 whopping seconds, KISS sounds like more than a big, dumb rock band … but then the power chords kick in and it’s back to normal. Is this a good song? No, not really. But for KISS, it’s pretty damn solid.

5. Jody Watley- “I Want You”

Jody Watley’s “I Want You” is a nice reminder that she really had that whole R&B/funk/dance music thing figured out in the late 80s and early 90s. Her “I Want You” was the lead single and opening song from 1991’s Affairs of the Heart, and it’s a great little pop record. I don’t necessarily listen to a lot of R&B from this time period—well, OK, other than Whitney Houston and Prince—but Watley’s “I Want You” deserves to be more well known today than it is now.  

4. Savage Garden – “I Want You”

Wow … I haven’t thought of this song in probably 15 years, maybe longer. Listening now, it’s actually … not bad? Savage Garden’s “I Want You” is an above-average pop song, and while the video is obviously dated, the music itself has aged fairly well. It was borrowing so much from the 80s that, all these years later, it doesn’t scream, “HEY, REMEMBER THE 90’S?!” like a lot of other songs from this era.

3. Marvin Gaye – “I Want You”

Gaye’s “I Want You” comes from his 1976 album of the same name. It was his first album in three years and gave fans the first signals that his sound was being heavily influenced by disco. I’ve honestly always been more drawn to 1978’s Here, My Dear and even 1981’s In Our Lifetime, but I Want You is still a fantastic record.

Dig those swelling strings! The layered production! “I Want You” is sophisticated and full of emotion. One of the greatest songs of all time to be called “I Want You,” yes, but there are two I still rank higher …

2. Elvis Costello and the Attractions – “I Want You”

“I Want You,” from 1986’s Blood and Chocolate, is radically different than most of the music fans associate with Elvis Costello’s work with the Attractions. It’s slow, menacing, and raw, with Costello and his band riding a dirge-like tempo for more than 6 emotional minutes. Think of it as his own version of the anger Dylan was channeling with “Idiot Wind” back on Blood on the Tracks. I want you, Elvis sings, Did you call his name out as he held you down? I want you/ Oh no my darling, not with that clown!

I’m a huge fan of Costello’s early work, but don’t listen to his 80s output as much as I should. This song is fantastic!

1. Bob Dylan – “I Want You”

The No. 1 answer is usually pretty obvious with these lists, and this one is no different. Dylan’s “I Want You” was always going to be first, and I can’t imagine anyone would actually argue this point. Dylan’s “I Want You” is one of the strongest tracks on arguably his greatest achievement, 1966’s Blonde on Blonde. Like much of that album, it features a lot of harmonica, a lot of strong lead guitar work, and lyrics that are absolutely out of this world. The guilty undertaker sighs, Dylan sings, the lonesome organ grinder cries/ The silver saxophones say I—should refuse you.

If one was to compile a list of Dylan’s top 10 or 15 tracks, “I Want You” would most definitely make the cut. It’s a downright classic, and the best song to ever have the title “I Want You.” 

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