"If I Was Your Girlfriend" was the second single from Prince's widely acclaimed 1987 double album Sign “☮” the Times. While it is today considered one of his most notable and classic songs, at the time of its release the song did not chart well in the U.S. (partially caused by the title). The track was originally from the Camille project of 1986, which was to be released under the guise of an alter ego named Camille (see Prince's poem in the Lovesexy tour program), rather than by Prince. Regardless, the song is actually sung from a male perspective to a woman, wherein Prince explores the possibilities of a more intimate relationship if he were his lover's (platonic) girlfriend and asks if she would open up to him more if he was a female friend rather than her boyfriend. Trouser Press names the song as one of the album's highlights, noting that it "redefines a relationship in a surprisingly mature way". It is believed that "If I Was Your Girlfriend" deals with the jealousy Prince felt at the close bond shared between then girlfriend/fiancee Susannah Melvoin with Wendy Melvoin.
Musically, the song is based on a sparse bass and drum machine pattern, punctuated by a keyboard line that evokes sadness. The opening seconds include a sound collage that includes an orchestra tuning up, a salesman and a sample ofFelix Mendelssohn's "Wedding March". Prince's sped-up vocals are intensely emotional and heartfelt throughout. According to engineer Susan Rogers, a rare technical error on her part led to distortion—albeit only on certain words. As recounted in Alex Hahn's book Possessed: The Rise and Fall of Prince, Rogers thought Prince "was going to rip my head off" for the mistake. Yet, after hearing the playback, Prince loved the effect, which is featured on the released version.
The song was released on May 6, 1987, and reached No. 67 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was far more successful in the United Kingdom, reaching No. 20 there. It was the least successful single from Sign o' the Times.
- 2 Track listings
- 3 Cover versions
- 4 Sampling
- 5 Appearances in other media
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The B-side to the track was another "Camille" track, "Shockadelica". The track was actually written in response to an album of the same name by former Time member, Jesse Johnson. Prince heard Johnson's album before its release, and commented that a great album should have a great title track. Johnson disagreed, so Prince recorded the track and had it played on a Minneapolis radio station before the release of Johnson's album. The public perception would be that Johnson was copying Prince's idea, and this caused tension between Johnson and Prince.
When the "Camille" project was scrapped in favor of Crystal Ball, "Shockadelica" again made the cut, but was deleted from the tracklist when the set was trimmed to Sign “☮” the Times. The track was released as a B-side, and later on The Hits/The B-Sides.
- 7" single
- A. "If I Was Your Girlfriend" (edit) – 3:46
- B. "Shockadelica" – 3:30
- 12" single
- A. "If I Was Your Girlfriend" – 4:54
- B. "Shockadelica" (extended version) – 6:12
- "If I Was Your Girlfriend" was covered on the TLC album, CrazySexyCool, released in 1994, and on their FanMail Tour.
- The song was covered by Eels during their tours of 1997 and 1998. Their version was made commercially available on their 2008 rarities compilation Useless Trinkets: B-Sides, Soundtracks, Rarities and Unreleased 1996–2006.
- "If I Was Your Girlfriend" was covered by Martin Rossiter, released in 2012 on a cover EP called The Defenestration of Prince and Others.
- "If I Was Your Girlfriend" was covered by B.Slade, as "Girlfriend", on the 2012 album "Stunt B%$@H".
- Mobb Deep sampled the song on their 1996 pre-Hell on Earth song "Young Luv".
- Chicano rapper Lil Rob samples "If I Was Your Girlfriend" on his 1997 Crazy Life album.
- In 2003, the Jay-Z/Beyoncé Knowles single, "'03 Bonnie & Clyde" (from The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse) used several lines of "If I Was Your Girlfriend", and Prince was credited as one of the writers.
- 2Pac sampled a live performance of "If I Was Your Girlfriend" for his song "Thugs Get Lonely Too"; the title is also a nod to another Prince composition called "Gigolos Get Lonely Too," performed by The Time. The song was recorded in 1993 but did not see official release until 2004, when the Prince samples were removed.
- George Clinton sampled "If I Was Your Girlfriend" for his song, "Heaven", off of his 2008 album George Clinton and His Gangsters of Love.