There are few things that are worthy of the title of perfect. A LeBron James chase-down block. The combination of buffalo wings and cheese fries. Zendaya. These are just a few examples of things that are in the upper echelon of achievement. In terms of music, there are even fewer examples of perfection. Most examples are limited to individual songs, like Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain,” and Outkast’s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious.” Very rarely does an artist achieve complete perfection throughout an entire album. It’s even more rare than a Leonardo DiCaprio Oscar win. For this reason, an album that truly encapsulates what it means to be perfect must be celebrated.
Of all of the artists that are most likely to create a flawless record, it’s not surprising that Stevie Wonder would be one of the hallowed few to do it. His entire career has been characterized by hit-making and soul-breaking vocals. Throughout all of his 23 studio albums, the Detroit native showcased an indisputable musical genius that has been unmatched by any. His sustained success is the stuff of legends, winning 25 Grammy awards. He is legendary across the entire musical spectrum, displaying unmatched skill in multiple instruments on top of his vocal prowess. Stevie Wonder has always found a way to deliver soulful, complex compositions that dazzle listeners at all times.
When he began his career as a Motown’s child prodigy, his work was locked down and controlled by Motown’s founder Berry Gordy. Once he was released from his contract, Stevie was able to take full control of his artistic vision and spread his wings. That’s exactly what he did with Music of My Mind. The first album fully under Stevie’s control was his most important album. He had been primarily focused on hit-making like on “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Your’s” and “My Cherie Amour.” But Music of My Mind, brought along a new era of Stevie Wonder, one characterized by emotionally rich songs and experimentation with production and composition.
The opening song to the album, “Love Having You Around,” acts as a transition point for Stevie Wonder’s career. It incorporates elements of funk and rock that Wonder hadn’t used before. The synthesizer began to take a much bigger role in his music after this moment. He experimented with voice distortion and laying his vocals on top of each other to create a perfect mesh of sound. It set the tone for the legendary level of production that was on the album. On “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You),” Stevie showcases the ability to make an emotionally bittersweet song sound audibly pleasing, laying a story of lost love over jazz-influenced guitar riffs. It set the stage for the quintessential Stevie Wonder song, heavy jazz and blues influences combining with perfect vocals.
Throughout the rest of the album, Stevie showcased a vulnerable, emotional side that was previously unseen on his carefree, hit singles. He speaks of sharing love, as well as being able to receive it in a healthy manner. It was on this album that he found his poetic voice, finding his own style independent of the Motown formula. It was here that he laid the groundwork for the rest of his career, exhibiting the artistic growth that allowed him to morph into the music god that he is now.
The album’s final track, “Evil,” is by far the best example of Stevie Wonder’s emotional range. The upbeat style that he showed during the rest of the album, save for “Superwoman,” was missing on the finale. The personification of evil to plead with it for how it has ruined the children and subsequently the world is one of the most emotionally heart-wrenching topics that Stevie ever focused on. His cry for love and peace in the world during the height of the Vietnam War served to create one of his most powerful songs. The gospel influenced track is delivered on the strength of a somber collection of piano chords and melancholy synthesizer riffs. It showcased Stevie Wonder’s ability to deliver a powerful, meaningful song without the need for gimmicky production.
Stevie’s first attempt at individuality created a perfect album. It got the ball rolling on his solo career, continuing his arc from child star to the generation defining musical titan that he is recognized as now. Music of My Mind‘s nine tracks were more than enough to allow Stevie to achieve greatness and to propel his career forward. The album should be recognized for what it is: a flawless new beginning.