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10 Underrated Songs by Stevie Wonder

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Stevland Hardaway Morris, aka Stevie Wonder, is one of the world’s most cherished music artists, having won over 25 Grammy Awards and selling over 100 million records worldwide.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Being signed to a motown label aged just 11, Stevie Wonder has become one of the most renowned icons of motown, funk and soul music from the 1960s through to present day.

We're delving deep into Stevie's lesser-known tracks, the ones lost in the crowd, overshadowed by big and bolshie brass and soul-infused tracks such as ‘Sir Duke’ and ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’. Looking past "commercial success", Stevie delivers beautiful romantic ballads and fiery Latin-inspired music that's impossible not to dance to.

1. As, Songs In The Key Of Life (1977)

Kicking off the list is a track from Stevie's best-selling and most acclaimed album, Songs In The Key Of Life. Overshadowed by the likes of ‘Sir Duke’ and ‘Isn’t She Lovely’, ‘As’ is a gospel-infused soul-ballad, abundant with poetic lyricism; “that I'll be loving you always (Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky)”. The track is arguably one of the best showcases of Wonder’s incredible vocals; there is a fiery passion that fuels the grit in his voice. Although ‘As’ found itself revived in the charts thanks to George Michael and Mary J Blige's cover in 1999, the original is never to be underestimated. 

2. Golden Lady, Innervisions (1973)

Stevie Wonder’s ballads are a tangible piece of heaven but, for some reason or another, are severely underappreciated in comparison to more of his well-known, upbeat tracks. ‘Golden Lady’ immerses itself in a dizzy infatuation, wrapped up in decadent, rich and velvety piano chords with warped synths that have an improvised feel as they dance in between the downbeats. Wonder’s vocals have a wonderful softness which caresses the song’s centrepiece.

3. Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing, Innervisions (1973)

Latin meets soul in this fun, feel-good dance track. Beginning with minor key staccato, heavily rhythmic and syncopated piano chords, and a healthy injection of personality with the implement of Spanish lyrics, this song exudes positivity. The vocals burst into self-assured, legato lulls, following cascading chromatic chord progressions, cleverly syncopated in-between cymbal tangs, allowing the staccato and arpeggio-based vocals to re-establish themselves in the chorus.

4. Love Light In Flight, The Woman In Red (Soundtrack) (1984)

A synth-soaked bassline giant; ‘Love Light In Flight’ grooves around its central lyrics where the vocals reach their blissful climax; “Make me feel like paradise / Fill me with your kisses”. Wonder’s larger-than-life voice really fills this track, with its subtle twists and harmony-infused, full-bodied backing vocals. The bass synthesiser and surrounding percussion provides one of Wonder’s best dance beats in this track.

5. Another Star, Songs In The Key Of Life, (1977)

The embodiment of a Brazilian carnival, ‘Another Star’ is brimming with opulent horns, characteristic syncopation and has a quietly confident bassline. Similarly to ‘Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing’, the minor key of the punchy piano chords add to the Latin rhythmic feel, but it's the backing vocals that really give this song its zing. 

6. Ribbon In The Sky, Original Musiquarium (1982)

‘Ribbon In The Sky’ is another beautiful soul ballad, with a jazzy tinge to its luscious piano chords and the delicate, twinkly improvised-style melody that runs over the top of it. Wonder’s expressive vocals and impressive range are what gives this song such poignancy.

7. Tuesday Heartbreak, Talking Book (1972)

‘Tuesday Heartbreak’ is drenched in wah-ing synths that retain dominance throughout the track. Subtle hints of the saxophone and drum-kit percussion enhance the jazziness of the minor key vocals. It's a proper room-filler.

8. If You Really Love Me, Where I’m Coming From (1971)

An upbeat Motown song featuring instrumentation from the infamous Funk Brothers, and while it is a true classic, it didn't enjoy as much commercial success as many of Wonder’s similar tracks. ‘If You Really Love Me’ is undeniably feel-good, with cheerful brass that weaves light into the fabric of the song and showcases Stevie's vocals in the Motown framework.

9. As If You Read My Mind, Hotter Than July (1980)

‘As If You Read My Mind’ is a self-confident groover with piano chords fortified by wiggly electric guitar rhythms and a perky bassline. Syncopation is well and truly the core of the get-down beat of this track. With a funky vocal rhythm and the improvised-style harmonica, it's an irresistible slice of Wonder’s mastermind funk.  

10. Do I Do, Original Musiquarium (1982)

Despite winning three Grammy Awards, ‘Do I Do’ is still vastly underrated in the scheme of Wonder’s best-known songs. Its intricate yet slick bassline is complemented by a robust body of brass, trumpet and funky bass solos, and layers of percussion. The song’s lyrics are unforgettably cheeky, “Yes I got some candy kisses for your lips / Yes I got some honey suckle chocolate dripping kisses full of love for you" - Wonder completely lets himself go in this track, whilst still exhibiting his phenomenal range and tonal abilities.




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