That Girl

Album: Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium I (1981)
Charted: 39 4
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Songfacts®:

  • This electropop R&B tune is about a girl who can have any man she wants, but none of them have the kind of love she needs… except for a certain keyboard-playing soul singer waiting in the wings. "That Girl" was one of four new songs on Wonder's 1982 greatest-hits compilation, Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium I.
  • The '80s started off hot for Stevie Wonder with the million-selling album Hotter Than July (featuring "Happy Birthday," written in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.), but despite the success, the singer was having financial woes. At least, that's what Jay Lasker, then-president of Motown Records, assumed from some of Wonder's failed business dealings. Lasker cooked up an idea to pay Wonder $2 million if he'd let Motown (via the imprint Tamla) release a greatest hits album with his popular tunes of the '70s.

    But it wasn't out of the goodness of his heart; with Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye recently off the label, Lasker was worried about Motown's hit quotient for 1982. Wonder was on board with the plan, only he wanted it to be a double album with four new songs. Not anticipating the singer's lax approach to deadlines, Lasker agreed. The first single was "That Girl," which hit the charts in December 1981. Unfortunately, it was promoting an album that wasn't ready. Original Musiquarium I didn't drop until May, missing the chance for a lot of sales in the interim.

    "I'd lay odds that Stevie and Motown lost sales of a million albums by releasing it so long after the single," Lasker told Billboard. "We'd wasted a whole hit." The set garnered around 500,000 sales in the US.
  • This was a #1 hit on the R&B chart. It spent nine weeks at the apex, the longest run he ever had at the top spot. The singles "Do I Do" and "Ribbon In The Sky" also made the Top 10.
  • Wonder clipped a phrase from The Rolling Stones in the line:

    With her emotional rescue of love
    That you'll leave torn apart


    Emotional Rescue is the name of The Stones' 1980 album and its title track.
  • Instead of enlisting a stable of musicians, Wonder performed as a one-man band on the track, playing piano, drums, harmonica, Fender Rhodes, and synthesizers. "I see a picture of a song being one way or the other," he told Musician magazine in 1984. "For something like 'Sir Duke,' I saw musicians and I just went about getting them, but for something like 'That Girl,' you just basically do it yourself."
  • Elements of the tune show up in a few hip-hop songs. Tupac sampled the hook and the harmonica solo on his 1995 single "So Many Tears" from the album Me Against The World. A few years later, Queen Latifah sampled the hook on "Let Her Live," which was a bonus track on her 1998 album, Order In The Court. 50 Cent also sampled the hook and other elements on his song "That Girl" from the 2008 mixtape Sincerely Yours, Southside.

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