Wednesday, March 24, 2021

"Ooo La La La" by Teena Marie

Song#:  3442
Date:  03/12/1988
Debut:  89
Peak:  85
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B, Soul

Pop Bits:  Teena Marie's sixth album, 1984's Starchild, would be her second gold seller thanks to her first (and only) Pop Top 10 hit "Lovergirl" (#9 R&B). Her 1986 follow-up, Emerald City, would be a bump in the road (see below), but she returned in a big way with her next LP Naked to the World. This first single would be her fifth R&B Top 10 and her first (and only) to hit #1 on that chart. While the song was able to crossover to Pop, it just didn't click like "Lovergirl" and it stalled near the bottom of the chart. A second single, "Work It," got to #10 R&B, but failed to make the Pop chart. The album would then peak at #15 R&B and #65 Pop. Her next album, 1990's Ivory, would spawn the #8 R&B hit "If I Were a Bell." After that, Marie took a bit of a break and only released an indie album in '94. She fully came back to music in 2004 with La Doña. Her return attracted enough attention for the album to reach #6 R&B and #4 Pop. Its lead single, "Still in Love" (#23 R&B/#70 Pop) earned her a Grammy nod for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female. She would release two more album before her death in 2010. The album she was working on at the time of her passing would be posthumously released as Beautiful in 2013.

ReduxReview:  It was interesting that the label pushed out this mid-tempo ballad first instead of a more upbeat track. However, I'm sure they figured that the tune was probably the most likely candidate on the album for crossover success. It ended up being a smash at R&B, but it tanked at Pop and I'm not really sure why. Maybe folks were still looking for "Lovergirl, Pt. 2" and this just didn't fit the bill. Soul-leaning ballads were a bit of a harder sell at pop radio back then, but I thought this one straddled the line well enough to pick up interest a pop. It should have at least gotten in the Top 40. It was a shame that Marie wasn't a bigger crossover artist. She was so talented and when she hit the mark, the results were pretty awesome.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The clout Marie built up with the success of Starchild allowed her to so something a bit more unusual with her follow-up. Instead of doing another straight-forward pop/rock/R&B album, Marie flexed her creativity and decided to attempt a concept-style piece. Titled Emerald City, which was obviously inspired by that iconic place in The Wizard of Oz, Marie followed a character named Pity who has to deal with racial and gender bias. It has been said that the storyline was based on Marie's own experience as a white woman working in the black music industry. The styles of music on the album varied from R&B to jazz to rock with some international flair tossed in as well. The songs she wrote or co-wrote weren't necessarily created with commercial radio in mind. It's unclear what anyone at her label Epic thought of the album, but they went ahead and released it. Neither of its singles reached the Pop chart and only "Lips to Find You" did anything on the R&B chart getting to #28. The LP stalled at #20 R&B and #81 Pop. Critics were not fond of the LP with several citing it as Marie's worst effort. It was a divisive work with some fans appreciating the concept piece while other not getting it at all. Retrospectively, the album has received a bit more praise these days. The momentum Marie built up with Starchild was nearly lost with Emerald City, but she rallied back quite well with Naked to the World and "Ooo La La La."


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