When you hear the hit single "Baby Love," it's easy to picture Madonna writhing to the melodic dance tune in one of her sensuous, high-gloss videos. But "Baby Love" isn't the latest from America's favorite boy toy. It's by another single-named singer, Regina, who insists that she's not trying to ride on the coattails of the reigning pop princess.
During a phone interview this week from her home in New York, Regina (who will perform with Yarbrough & Peoples at Santa Ana Stadium on Saturday night) said that she wants to be seen as a veteran artist with her own artistic vision.
"I just want people to know that I've been working at this for eight years, since I was a teen-ager," said Regina, 25, who nonetheless admits that "Baby Love" does have a Madonna-like feel.
"I just didn't pop up after the fact," she said. "There were a lot of long years of hard work. Madonna and I are two different artists. There may be a quality in our voices that's similar, but when my first album comes out (later this month on Atlantic) I think people will really see the differences."
The former theater major fronted the Regina Richards & Red Hot pop band in the late '70s and early '80s, releasing an album in England without much success. Frustrated, Regina dissolved the band and concentrated on writing songs for other artists.
When she co-wrote "Baby Love" (not the 1964 Supremes' hit of the same title) with former Red Hot drummer Stephen Bray who also produced the record and--perhaps significantly--co-produced Madonna's current "True Blue" LP, their original hope was that someone else would record it.
" 'Baby Love' was one of those songs that Steve and I wrote to place with another artist," Regina said. "What ended up happening was that (record companies) were not only interested in 'Baby Love' and all the other songs on the demo tape, but they were interested in me as a singer. They said, 'Why doesn't she want a record deal?' And I said, 'Well, if you want to offer me one. . . .' "
While some pop fans may find the similarities between "Baby Love" and such Madonna hits as "Borderline" and "Into the Groove" a little bit too obvious, it was Madonna who originally came to Regina and Bray. The two were working at a rehearsal facility called the Music Building in New York. In order to pay the rent, they began to cut demos for aspiring artists. One of their clients was Madonna, who was trying to land a recording contract at the time. Regina recalled helping Madonna with the vocal harmonies on her demos.
The first case of mistaken identity involving the two singers was the reverse of the one that's going on today.
"I was shopping in the supermarket with my mother when Madonna's first album came out," said Regina. "They were playing (Madonna's) 'Holiday' and my mother screamed because she thought it was me. I said, 'Mom, that's not me. It's my friend's record.'
"I think our vocal tones are slightly similar. But (the other similarities on 'Baby Love') have more to do with the fact that Steve produced it and co-wrote it."
Image-wise, Regina has no intention of selling herself as a sex symbol--"I'm definitely clothed on stage," she said. She claims to be more interested in establishing herself as an all-around artist.
The talkative singer wrote or co-wrote all the songs on the album, which she said will include mostly upbeat dance tunes. Regina would also like to move into record producing and acting.
Now, though, she just wants to establish her career as a singer and songwriter.
"I have a lot of fun with what I do. I absolutely love writing songs and singing. I think that's what comes across to people. I would like them to buy the record and sing the songs as they walk down the street. I know when I was growing up, constantly hearing great songs was really important to me. I hope to be able to give that to people."