Waiting for Tonight Original
In 1997, Maria Christensen, Michael Garvin and Phil Temple wrote “Waiting for Tonight”. The song is a dance-tune about a woman eagerly awaiting the arrival of her new man. Jennifer Lopez’s 1999 version became a celebratory anthem associated with the eve of the new millennium. The “Waiting for Tonight” original was recorded two years earlier by Christensens’ girl group 3rd Party. This version had a decidedly more Europop sound to it.
3rd Party & the Waiting for Tonight Original
American dance-pop group 3rd Party consisted of lead singer Christiansen, and Karmine Alers and Elaine Borja on backing vocals. They released one studio album, Alive, in 1997. The group formed in the wake of the mid-90s Euro-house craze, but possibly their album came out too late to be successful in this genre. 3rd Party’s best-known songs were “Can U Feel It” and “Waiting for Tonight”, although Lopez’s 1999 version eclipsed the latter.
Some argue that the “Waiting for Tonight” original is better than Lopez’s version. Check out the comments made here for a discussion on the merits of each version. The 3rd Party song does have a more club, or Euro-pop, sound to it and is possibly more DJ-inspired. While less polished than Lopez’s version, I actually prefer the original.
3rd Party lead singer Christensen is a veteran musician, singing since the age of five and writing songs since she was ten. Besides “Waiting for Tonight”, she wrote songs for Nana Mouskouri, Eternal, NSYNC and Celine Dion. Before 3rd Party, Christensen was in the Latin freestyle group Sequal. If you’re into the 80s freestyle sound, take a look at this 1985 extended video mix of It’s Not Too Late.
Both Christensen and 3rd Party back-up singer Alers went on to have solo careers. Their solo albums were both described as more soulful and melodic than their earlier dance music.
J Lo: From Films to Songs
Lopez is one of a rare few artists to successfully convert from film star to pop star status. After her success in the 1997 biopic Selena, former Sony Music exec and then-husband of Mariah Carey, Tommy Mottola, approached Lopez about furthering her singing career. They hired a vocal coach and made plans for her first album.
Critics were doubtful about Lopez’s venture into the music industry. People in the entertainment industry said, “If the album was a flop, not only would it embarrass Lopez, but it might even damage her career.” Herón Márquez’s book Latin Sensations discusses this in more detail. These critics couldn’t have been more wrong.
Record producer Ric Wake presented “Waiting for Tonight” to Lopez and her producer Cory Rooney. A demo was recorded, which Lopez hated.
I never want to hear that song again. It’s horrible and so cheesy.”Jennifer Lopez, talking about the early demo of “Waiting for Tonight”
Rooney, however, believed the song had potential. He begged Wake to rework the demo, paying $50,000 for a new version. Lopez loved it and wanted to record it right away.
Waiting for a New Millennium
In 1999, Lopez recorded “Waiting for Tonight” for her debut studio album On the 6. Wake and Richie Jones produced the album. A Spanish version, “Una Noche Más“, adapted by Manny Benito, was also recorded.
“Waiting for Tonight” was released on 27 October 1999 as the third single from On the 6. Francis Lawrence directed the accompanying music video, which featured a Y2K dance party. The video received heavy MTV and VH1 rotation and won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Dance Video.
“Waiting for Tonight” reached the top ten in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. In 2000, it was nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards but lost to Cher’s “Believe”.
Waiting for Tonight Legacy
Publications such as Entertainment Weekly and the Chicago Tribune considered “Waiting for Tonight” to be the best song of Lopez’s career. People magazine labelled it a “turn-of-the-millennium” club anthem. Music critics Dee Locket (from the Chicago Tribune) and Andrew Barker (from Variety magazine) credited the song for making Lopez a leading dance-pop artist. It was also considered responsible for bringing Latin pop into the mainstream American music scene.
In 2001, Lopez released her second album J.Lo and starred in the romantic comedy The Wedding Planner. She became the first woman to have a number one album and film released in the same week. Today Lopez is regarded as the most influential Latin performer in the US. In 2012, Forbes ranked her as the most powerful celebrity in the world, plus the 38th most powerful woman in the world.
In an amazing half-time performance at the 2020 Super Bowl, Lopez performed pole dancing learnt on the set of Hustlers while singing “Waiting for Tonight“. The song hasn’t dated in over twenty years.