“Waiting for Tonight” is a song written by Maria Christensen, Michael Garvin, and Phil Temple. It was originally written and recorded for American girl group 3rd Party’s debut studio album, Alive (1997). Two years after the group disbanded, American singer Jennifer Lopez recorded her own version of the song for her debut studio album, On the 6 (1999). Ric Wake and Richie Jones provided production for Lopez’s dance-pop version of “Waiting for Tonight” baby football socks, which differs from the German-sounding Europop version that was recorded by 3rd Party. A Spanish version of the song, entitled “Una Noche Más”, was adapted by Manny Benito and also recorded for the album. “Waiting for Tonight” was released on November 1, 1999, by the Work Group, as the third single from On the 6.
“Waiting for Tonight” is considered by various publications, such as Entertainment Weekly and the Chicago Tribune, to be the best song of Lopez’s career. Contemporary music critics have also credited the song with making her a leading artist in the dance-pop movement. It was used frequently as a celebratory anthem in anticipation for the dawn of the new millennium. The single was a commercial success, reaching the top ten in Australia, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. “Waiting for Tonight” became Lopez’s first song to top the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart. The song earned her a nomination for Best Dance Recording at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards in 2000.
The accompanying music video for “Waiting for Tonight” was directed by Francis Lawrence and depicts a Y2K dance party. The video was widely popular, receiving heavy rotation on MTV, and its emphasis on Lopez’s body led to increased media attention surrounding the entertainer. It was nominated for numerous awards, including two at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, where it received the MTV Video Music Award for Best Dance Video. The video has influenced subsequent music videos by Adam Lambert, Rihanna, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, FKA twigs, and Selena Gomez. Lopez has performed “Waiting for Tonight” on various television programs, such as Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, at various award ceremonies, such as the 11th Billboard Music Awards, and in two of her concert tours, with the most recent being the Dance Again World Tour.
The song was originally written and recorded for 3rd Party’s debut studio album, Alive (1997). Lopez recorded her own version of “Waiting for Tonight” three years after the group’s break-up for her debut studio album, On the 6 (1999). The song was first presented to Lopez and her producer Cory Rooney by Ric Wake. Lopez “hated the song” in its early demo format saying “I never want to hear that song again. It’s horrible and so cheesy”, while Rooney believed it had potential. Rooney said: “I begged [Ric] and said, ‘Look, please we need to go back on this song. We need to work on this song and really produce it out.'” Wake informed Rooney that it would cost too much to rework the song, and Rooney subsequently paid $50,000, stating: “That’s how much I believe the record is gonna be a hit for her.” Upon hearing the new version, Lopez loved it, and wanted to record it right away.
“Waiting for Tonight” was written by Maria Christiansen, Michael Garvin, and Phil Temple. Ric Wake provided the production for Lopez’s version, which according to Garvin, differs from the “very German-sounding” Europop version that was recorded by 3rd Party. Additional production was provided by Richie Jones, who arranged the song alongside Wake. Additional programming and arranging was provided by Jones and “Young” Dave Scheuer. Background vocals were performed by Christensen, Jane Barrett, and Margaret Dorn. Eric Kupper played the keyboards, while Jones played the drums and percussion. Scheuer, Franklyn Grant, and Thomas R. Yezzi provided engineering for the song, with assistance from Juan Bohorquez and Robb Williams, while the production was coordinated by David Barrett. The song was recorded at various recording locations in New York City, including Cove City Sound Studios, The Dream Factory, Hit Factory, and Sony Music Studios. The song was later mixed by Dan Hetzel at Cove City Sound Studios.
“Waiting for Tonight” is an uptempo dance-pop song with a length of four minutes and six seconds (4:06). According to the digital music sheet published at Musicnotes.com, the song is written in the key of B♭ minor. It follows a chord progression B♭m–A♭6–Fm7–G♭maj7. The instrumentation of “Waiting for Tonight” consists of a piano and guitar. The song has a tempo of 125 beats per minute. The song has a slightly salsa-influenced opening, with PopCrush describing its percussion as “tropical” and Latin waist bag for running. Aaron Beierle of DVD Talk commented that “Waiting for Tonight” hits a “rich groove.” BET called the song a “club banger”. “Waiting for Tonight” has sensual lyrics, with Lopez comparing her sex life to a movie scene.
“Waiting for Tonight” is considered by various sources to be the best song of Lopez’s career, including Entertainment Weekly, the Chicago Tribune, Slant Magazine, and Idolator, among others. MTV described the song as “classic Lopez”. “Waiting for Tonight” was used frequently as a celebratory anthem, used in anticipation for the dawn of the new millennium. People magazine stated that it became the “turn-of-the-millennium” club anthem. Lauren Zupkus of The Huffington Post praised it as an “epic dance hit”, which was the “perfect anthem for all of our anxiety about Y2K”. Los Angeles Times writer Gerrick D. Kennedy stated that “we can all admit that “Waiting for Tonight” played at our respective millennium celebrations”, while PopSugar wrote: “No 1999 New Year’s Eve bash was complete without J Lo’s big party song.” Dee Lockett, writing for the Chicago Tribune, stated that songs such as “Waiting for Tonight” made Lopez “arguably the leading artist in the dance-pop movement at the time”. Andrew Barker of Variety magazine called the song her breakout club hit, and wrote that it “seemed to anticipate the rise of Euro-centric dance pop a decade before EDM became a buzz term”.
VH1’s Stacy Lambe ranked “Waiting for Tonight” as Lopez’s best single, speaking favorably of her “focused” vocals and writing that the track “quickly became a staple for the singer. Infused with the anticipation of the millennium, “Waiting for Tonight” became an anthem for the end of an era. It simultaneously built up the excitement for the New Year while kissing off the fears and drama of the past. It was 1999 after all, and anything could happen.” WatchMojo.com ranked it atop their list of “Top 10 Jennifer Lopez Songs”, writing: “While many were contemplating a Y2K disaster, Lopez transformed fear to excitement with this Billboard hit and ushered in a new musical era.”
Rolling Stone described it as “music worth getting lost in”. David Browne of Entertainment Weekly, in a review of On the 6, gave a positive review of the song, stating that “[from On the 6] At least one track, the club-hopping ‘Waiting for Tonight,’ is worthy of a dance-floor diva, and the inevitable remix should sound even better”. Matthew Turner of Crosswalk.com called “Waiting for Tonight” an “infectious tune.” Richard Harrington from The Washington Post was unfavorable of the song, calling it a “generic” dance track. Deseret News described Lopez’s vocals as “sultry” but thin, whilst noting that she finds a “nice ring” in songs such as “Waiting for Tonight”. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine agreed, observing that her vocals were best-suited for dance-pop songs such as “Waiting for Tonight”. Allmusic’s Heather Phares praised the Spanish version of the song, “Una Noche Más”, for emphasizing Lopez’s “distinctive heritage”, stating that it elevated the song’s parent album On the 6 from “a star’s vanity project to an individual but accessible work of pop songcraft by a widely talented performer”. “Waiting for Tonight” earned Lopez her first Grammy Award nomination, for Best Dance Recording. Max TV listed “Waiting for Tonight” as one of their “Top 1000 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
British dance music duo Phats & Small’s 2004 song “Maybe Tonight” heavily samples “Waiting for Tonight”. British record producer Joker sampled the song for his single “Midnight”, released in 2014. “Waiting for Tonight” was also sampled by Australian electronic music band Cut Copy, in their song “Hearts on Fire”. MTV’s Nicole James likened the chorus of singer Lady Gaga’s song “Marry the Night” to “Waiting for Tonight”.
“Waiting for Tonight” debuted on the Australian Singles Chart at number 35 on October 31, 1999. In its eleventh week on the chart, it reached a peak of number four. Overall, it spent six weeks in the top ten and was certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association for shipments of 70,000 units. In Belgium, the song peaked at number four in Wallonia and fifteen in Flanders. After entering the Official New Zealand Music Chart at number 42 for the week ending October 31, 1999, the song peaked at number five one month later, and was later certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand for shipment of 7,500 units. In Finland, “Waiting for Tonight” charted for three weeks, peaking at number eight. The single also peaked at number nine in Canada, and number ten in France. It was later certified silver in France by the Syndicat National de l’Édition Phonographique, marking shipments of 50,000 units.
For the week ending October 16, 1999, “Waiting for Tonight” entered the US Billboard Hot 100 at number 56 as the “Hot Shot Debut of the Week.” Airplay and sales increased, with the song steadily rising to number 37 in its second week, garnering the “Greatest Gainer in Airplay” title. In its third week, it jumped to number 25 on the Hot 100, while topping the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart. “Waiting for Tonight” entered the top ten of the Hot 100 on the week ending November 27, 1999, reaching number nine. The following week, the song peaked at number eight on the Hot 100. It also peaked at number five on the US Hot 100 Airplay Chart. It is her ninth biggest hit on Billboard charts. In August 2002, the song received a BDS Certified Spin Award for receiving 200,000 radio spins in the United States.
The music video for “Waiting for Tonight” was filmed in Los Angeles over three days from August 2–4, 1999. Part of it was shot at the Los Angeles Arboretum. Lopez took time off from filming The Cell (2000) to complete the music video. It was directed by Francis Lawrence, whose work Lopez had admired. Speaking of the video’s concept, Lopez said: “I wanted it to be fun and have a certain type of energy and he came back with the treatment of the video where it was this millennium party in the jungle. Just the way he described it, it sounded perfect, the kind of thing I really wanted to do so we just went with it.” When casting extras for the music video, Lopez stressed that she wanted those appearing around her to look like “real people”. For “Waiting for Tonight”, she worked with choreographer Tina Landon, who previously hired Lopez as a backup dancer for Janet Jackson in the early stages of her career. Landon also made an appearance in the clip as an extra. During filming, Lopez was burnt on her shoulder by one of the green lasers used. Two versions of the music video were released, the original and one featuring the Hex Hector remix of the song. The creation of “Waiting for Tonight” was documented and aired by MTV in Making the Video. Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan of The Baltimore Sun stated that it revealed the “death-defying dance stunts” which Lopez undertook, “donning stiletto heels and a micro-mini to perform elaborate footwork on a narrow, 6-foot-high Plexiglas platform while cameras caught her from every possible provocative angle”. The music video premiered directly after the Making the Video special on MTV, on August 23, 1999.
The clip begins with an image of the sun setting. Lopez and her female friends are at a house preparing for a New Year’s Eve party. Inter-cut are scenes of Lopez dancing in a jungle, where green lasers are flashing behind her. Later, another scene features Lopez covered with sparking crystals on her face and body. The females later canoe over a river and travel to a Rave party which is being held in a rainforest. Towards the end of the song’s bridge, the music briefly stops, as the party-goers stare up at a large clock and count down to the year 2000. There is a six-second power outage (A reference to the Y2K problem). The power returns, and the party celebrates the new year. This is inter-cut with scenes of Lopez dancing on top of the crowd, as well as frolicking in a Hawaiian river wearing a black bikini. In the Hex Hector remix version, the original video intercuts new scenes of Lopez dancing in a jungle with green lasers flashing behind her with the original footage. The video also incorporates a green laser strobe effect.
The music video was widely popular, receiving heavy rotation on MTV, and establishing Lopez as a “dance princess”. Its emphasis on Lopez’s body, much like her previous music video for “If You Had My Love”, led to increased media attention, with Lopez being recognized for her curvaceous figure and buttocks. The music video was famed for its thematic depiction of a Y2K dance party. Carsianny Osias from the magazine New York observed that the video served as a “fun distraction as the world began to worry about Y2K and the possibility of living in a state of computer-driven chaos”, and also noted that its theme helped “Waiting for Tonight” become an “official party starter for years to come (…) We’ve come a long way since the year 2000, but it’s safe to say that ‘Waiting for Tonight’ isn’t going anywhere.” Author Dominic Pettman observed that the music video captured an “orgasmic anticipation” for the new millennium. Fuse ranked the clip at number 30 on their list of the “Top 100 Sexiest Music Videos of All Time” in 2011. Entertainment Weekly regarded it as the best music video of Lopez’s career.
“Lasers in the jungle and the Y2K vibe of that years New Years Eve celebrations are unforgettable images that helped catapult JLo to international success.”
The visuals of “Waiting for Tonight” became distinctive, particularly the green lasers appearing in the background, and the crystals Lopez wore on her body. Lopez said in 2014, “[Green lasers] just became so signature to that song and that time. I think that was the first time anyone had used them in a video that way.” Maitri Mehta of Bustle magazine wrote that she was “mesmerized by a vision of a bronze J. Lo gettin’ life from those green lasers. In almost all of her music videos, J. Lo is extremely, overtly sexy but that’s the point.” American Idol alumnus Adam Lambert revealed electric sweater, “I remember when I was a kid graduating high school and ‘Waiting for Tonight’ came out (…) And she had all the rhinestones on her face and she just looked like just dewy and stunning and amazing.” Fashion magazine Styleite wrote that Lopez continues to “inspire innumerable, ill-advised body glitter purchases around the world thanks to the steamy rave of “Waiting For Tonight””. Diane Cho of VH1 noted that Lopez “trademarked” the glitter-look in “Waiting for Tonight”, which was adapted by Britney Spears in “Toxic” and Beyoncé in “1+1”.
Monica Herrera of Billboard stated that Adam Lambert’s music video for the song “If I Had You” took the “late-night wilderness party motif of Jennifer Lopez’s classic “Waiting for Tonight” clip” and added “more lasers, guyliner, thrashy dance moves, silver top hats and outrageously spiky shoulder pads”. MTV’s Nicole James compared Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been” music video to “Waiting for Tonight”. Tiffany Lee of Yahoo! stated that Selena Gomez was “channeling” an early Lopez in her song “Slow Down”, drawing comparisons between both songs and videos, observing that “the premise for both music videos are almost identical”, with “dancing in front of flashing lights and sweating in dance floor crowds”. Pitchfork Media’s Lindsay Zoladz stated that English singer FKA twigs’ music video for the song “Papi Pacify” features “perhaps the most dazzling use of body glitter in a music video since J. Lo’s ‘Waiting for Tonight'”. Slant Magazine’s Ed Gonzalez likened the plot of the film The Matrix Reloaded (2003) to the music video. Hunter Schwarz of the website BuzzFeed humorously compared the music video to a 2013 Egyptian protest, where thousands of demonstrators flashed green lasers.
The music video received several award nominations, including four wins meat tenderizer brands. At the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, “Waiting for Tonight” was nominated in the Best Choreography and Best Dance Video categories, winning for Best Dance Video. It also won for Best Pop Video Clip at the Billboard Music Awards, and Best Dance Video at the International Dance Music Awards. At the Billboard Music Video Awards, “Waiting for Tonight” received two nominations for Best Video and Best New-Artist Video. It received multiple MVPA Award nominations, including for Pop Video of the Year, and won for Best Hair.
Lopez performed “Waiting for Tonight” for the first time on the British music chart television program Top of the Pops, on the episode that aired November 12, 1999 on BBC. Weeks later, she performed the song at the 11th Billboard Music Awards on December 8, 1999, where she opened the show. Billboard praised the performance as a “galvanizing” opening to the ceremony. She also sang the song along with “Feelin’ So Good” during an appearance at Saturday Night Live on May 2, 2000. She also sang the song at her set of Let’s Get Loud Concerts in Puerto Rico; a performance in which she got down on “all fours” while singing. The performance was televised on NBC on November 20, 2001. On September 6, 2007, she performed a remixed version of the song at Fashion Rocks, a charity fundraiser event, along with the single “Do It Well”, with Newsday writer Glenn Gamboa stating that the performance “seemed built for the runway with all the wind machines and strutting models”. The event aired on CBS, the following day. Lopez included “Waiting for Tonight” on her set list during her 2007 co-headlining concert tour with then-husband Marc Anthony. This was her first tour. In 2009, Lopez performed it at Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in a “revealing” catsuit. The catsuit provoked a mixed reaction from the public; The host of the show Ryan Seacrest praised the outfit, saying that it “made my year”—while others weren’t so admirable. Alicia Lundgren, a 24-year-old dancer from Philadelphia, told the New York Daily News: “There’s too many wrinkles. It looks like elephant skin.” Months later in February 2010, Lopez performed “Waiting for Tonight” as part of a medley of her hits at the Sanremo Music Festival, wearing a “skintight, studded leather black catsuit”. At the Summertime Ball festival hosted by Capital Radio at Wembley Stadium on June 12, 2011, Lopez opened her headlining performance with “Waiting for Tonight”, in front of an audience of 75,000 people.
Lopez wore a glittery bodysuit for her performance of the song at Mohegan Sun’s 15th anniversary celebration concert; green lasers swept across the arena ceiling as her dancers “whirled” around her. It was included on the setlist for her Dance Again World Tour in 2012. She performed the song while dancing on a white moving platform. During her European leg at her concert in Italy, Lopez supposedly had a wardrobe malfunction according to various sources during her performance of “Waiting for Tonight”. She was wearing a “plunging skintight cat suit”. Lopez performed the track along with several other hits during a July 2013 concert in Hyde Park, London. In March 2014, she sang “Waiting for Tonight” during her concert at the Dubai World Cup. In June of that year, Lopez performed the song during a concert in The Bronx which marked fifteen years since the release of On the 6; Andrew Hampp from Billboard wrote that the “laser-drenched” performance reached “World Cup levels of euphoria for a large swath of fans”. Three months later, performed the song again at the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix, as part of a 90-minute set. She was clothed in a “sexy tasselled black bodice with a nude-coloured underlay”. At her “The Best Is Yet To Come” concert which took place on New Year’s Eve 2014 in Caesars Palace, Lopez included “Waiting for Tonight” on her setlist; during the performance, she wore a red-sequined costume and performed a striptease on a couch. Lopez opened her performance at the American Music Awards of 2015 (where she also hosted the ceremony) with a “slower, sultrier” rendition of “Waiting for Tonight”. She was clothed in a tribal-print body stocking.
During Lopez’s guest appearance on the sixth season of the NBC sitcom Will & Grace, she performed “Waiting for Tonight”. The episode aired on April 29, 2004 as the season’s finale.
Credits adapted from the liner notes of On the 6.
*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone