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Broadway Jukebox: The 60 Best 'I Want' Songs

What is an 'I Want' song and which ones are the best? We have the answers!

Nothing gets an audience invested in a musical like a bold proclamation from its main character. What does the hero want? That question is usually answered with the aptly named 'I Want' song.

What is an 'I Want' song?

Usually (but not always) one of the first songs in a musical, the 'I Want' song is a quick way to loop in the audience on the motivations of the main character, which often drive his/her actions throughout the rest of the show. The term is widely considered to be coined by composer Lehman Engel.

"I have learned over the years that pretty much any successful musical you can name has an 'I Want' song for its main character within the first fifteen or so minutes of the show," said Stephen Schwartz on the subject. "I can think of exceptions, but frankly, I feel that the lack of such a moment is a weakness in most of those cases."

Which 'I Want' songs are the best? From the Golden Age of Broadway to the Disney Renaissance, we've gathered our favorites in the playlist below!

Enjoy songs from musicals like Pippin, School of Rock, Mean Girls, My Fair Lady, Little Shop of Horrors, Be More Chill, Chess, The Little Mermaid, Spring Awakening, Rent, Beauty and the Beast, The Bridges of Madison County, Bright Star, West Side Story, Aladdin, The Light in the Piazza, Wicked, Next to Normal, Cinderella, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and more!

Did we miss one of your favorites? Tell us which 'I Want' song stands out to you.

Want more showtunes? Study up on Broadway history with music from the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s. Plus, check out our favorite Broadway overtures, Act 1 finales, Act 2 openers, 11 o'clock numbers, and Finales!


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