“Where Did Our Love Go” was The Supremes’ tenth single, but it was the first to be recorded in what became the group’s signature style. It was also their first single to make much of an impact. Wisely, Holland-Dozier-Holland and the Supremes returned to the well for the follow-up. “Baby Love” borrows several elements from that previous single, as if trying to determine which was the variable that made it a hit. Back are the stomped-out beat, Diana Ross’s little-girl-grown lead vocals, and the theme of trying to persuade a cheating boyfriend to stay, even if breaking up would be more merciful for them both. But there are also a few added frills. “Where Did Our Love Go”‘s repetitive structure only managed to avoid irritation thanks to its brief running time. While “Baby Love” never quite busts into anything resembling a chorus, a few extra chords keep the verses from going stale. The “baby, baby” backing vocals are back, but supplemented with Mary and Flo’s ghostly “don’t throw our love away,” an addition that results in the record’s most memorable hook. There’s even a fake key change right in the middle.
Following a big hit with a retread is a business strategy as old as the record industry. Usually, though, these soundalikes are released to diminishing returns, à la The Marvelettes‘ “Twistin’ Postman” or Chubby Checker’s infinite attempts to replicate “The Twist.” But “Baby Love” was a surprise: not only was it a better song, but it was a bigger hit. “Baby Love” realizes the promise of “Where Did Our Love Go” with a richer sound and a more confident performance. It also foreshadows the group’s upward trajectory; within months, The Supremes would become the biggest pop group in America. While so many of their peers struggled to repeat the success of their One Big Hit, The Supremes were just getting started. But having mastered the elements of their style, it was time to progress. 7
Hit #1 on October 31, 1964; total of 4 weeks at #1
120 of 992 #1’s reviewed; 12.10% through the Hot 100