"Wannabe," Spice Girls
"War," Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
"War Pigs," Cake
"Warakurna," Midnight Oil
"The Warbler," The Choir
"Warning," Green Day
"Warning Sign," Talking Heads
Yes, the quote above is from the Spice Girls. But for a moment try to forget that's where that line is from and try not to think about that silly song. Is there a more important or more intimate question than this?
It's not even a question, actually, but a command: "Tell me." Connect. Tell me. Tell me what you want, what you really, really want.
In the context of the silly song, "really" seemed like one of those all-purpose empty intensifiers that tend to pepper our speech. "I really want," in that sense, meaning roughly the same thing as "I very much want" or "I bleeping want" — conveying intensity and urgency, but nothing more. But the word offers more than that. "Really" can also mean truly, genuinely, sincerely. Strip away pretension, propriety, insecurity, fear and the bills you have to pay. Strip away concern for what others might say or think or expect. Strip away every mask, veil, closet, beard, disguise or cultivated persona. Disregard all of that and tell me what you want, what you really, really want. Describe for me your pearl of great price, your treasure hidden in a field.
Back in 1996, the Spice Girls' "Wannabe" was unavoidable. It seemed like there was nowhere one could go without hearing those lyrics. In our daily lives, though, the occasion to say such a thing — the opportunity to invite such a vulnerable confession, to really, really connect — is a rare and precious thing, a kind of miracle. If anything is sacred, it is a moment such as this: "Tell me what you want, what you really, really want." "I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want, I want …"
For all that, though, "Wannabe" is still a screechingly awful, if catchy, bit of disposable pop. The difficulty or seeming impossibility, of ever telling what we want, what we really, really want, or even of fully knowing what that is ourselves, is reflected in those three songs above that share the title "Wanderlust." Each of those songs, one way or another, aspires to get at the unsettling refusal to settle for anything less. Some people sleep, some people yearn.