Today’s song was Teena Marie’s biggest hit, by far, on the pop charts. Her second biggest hit, “I Need Your Lovin'”, barely squeaked into the pop top 40. So by the slimmest of margins, Teena was spared being defined as a one-hit wonder. That would be by the definition proffered by Wikipedia (and the one I used for my one-hit wonder series last year). However, if you were to look at the R&B side of things, Teena was a star on a level like many of the acts on pop radio. Her records never failed to get airplay on R&B stations, and she had more than her share of top ten hits (both today’s song and the aforementioned “I Need Your Lovin'” both made the R&B top ten).
Today’s 80’s Mania Mondays song is “Lovergirl” by Teena Marie.
I have written about Teena before on the blog, so you may have already seen the short version of how her career began taking off primarily in R&B: signed to Motown Records, worked with Rick James (with whom she would be romantically linked), began to produce her own music by her third album (Irons In The Fire, from which “I Need Your Lovin'” was taken). After her fourth and biggest album to that time, It Must Be Magic, she and Motown Records had a dispute over her contract and whether or not the label would release new material by her. In a decision that was named after her, Marie was given her release from Motown, and was able to negotiate a deal with another record company.
Upon her release Marie signed with Epic Records, where she released today’s song. Taken from her second release for Epic, Starchild, this found Marie taking on a bit more of a rock influence on this particular song. Whether that is the reason “Lovergirl” was a broader-based hit is up for interpretation. For me, “Lovergirl” is an evolution of an artist expanding her musical palette to take on a new, different sound and combine it with the R&B that she had been doing from the beginning. But it didn’t always work like it did with this song; her follow-up album, Emerald City, had an even more pronounced rock influence on many of the tracks (save for the closing jazz-tinged “Sunny Skies” and the Quiet Storm ballad “Shangri-La”, to name a couple). That album didn’t do as well commercially, and did not have any pop hits at all. Two years later, Marie returned to her R&B roots for the next album.
For a moment in time, Teena Marie held the pop world at attention with this song. I hope you have fond memories of “Lovergirl,” and as always, thanks for reading and listening.