MATT KELLY continues his epic new series with his review of Stevie Wonder’s sinister, saccharine With A Song In My Heart.
1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear
#3: Stevie Wonder – With A Song In My Heart (1963)
Motown couldn’t figure it out. Little Stevie was a huge hit live with his energetic, hand-clapping shows that had everyone out of their seats, but his first two records hadn’t sold.
Clearly, what they needed to do was to take that energy and stamp out every trace of it with a saccharine sappy set of songs that would have even Michael Buble reaching for the sick bucket.
After the precocious mini-Ray Charles thing had stiffed, Stevie’s handlers did a hard 180, instead now presenting him as a wholesome, slow and sentimental crooner for old ladies to coo over.
And Stevie’s singing is fine – he does lose it in a few places but he’s 13 – but these arrangements. It’s not the songs, there’s nothing inherently bad about say ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’, but these arrangements. Lifeless and plodding and every track sounding the same, the 32-minute runtime begins to stretch into eternity making this a real endurance test.
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Everything is so sweet and pure and pleasant it becomes oppressive and the lyrical theme of repressing your emotions and being fake happy becomes sinister after a while. (I’m not joking – this really is a theme – ‘Smile’, ‘Put On A Happy Face’, ‘Get Happy’, etc.) And it’s just so SLOW. Terrible.
This bullshit is why The Beatles happened. If you want to experience having golden syrup poured into your ears until it smothers your brain, this is the record for you.