In 1976, legendary singer Stevie Wonder released his most critically-acclaimed album, Songs in the Key of Life.
This iconic body of work, which boasts 17 tracks across four sides, went on to win Album of the Year at the 19th annual Grammys and was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. The latter recognizes recordings that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States.”
But I didn’t come here to run down the historical or cultural significance of this album. No, my dearest, most musically tasteful reader. I came here to argue.
About what, you may ask? About the top three songs off this monumental album.
Now before you start getting in a tizzy, let me remind you that in this neck of the net, she who holds the pen, holds the power. And what that means is that no matter how you feel after you see the songs I’ve chosen, and no matter what you decide to go and type down in the comment section, it will not change my mind. What it will do, however, is give us both an excuse (as if we really needed one) to play this album all day long to prove why our choices are more correct. So without further ado, let’s get started in descending order with...
I know, I know. ‘A slow song, in the top three?’ Yes! But it’s a beautiful slow song in the top three, and we’re not going to pretend like it isn’t. (To be fair, “Knocks Me Off My Feet” is also a beautiful slow song and the piano intro alone is one of the sweetest things I’ve ever heard. But we’re not here to talk about that.) The harmonies in “Love’s In Need of Love Today” are quite simply impeccable, the message behind the lyrics is timely and relevant (both back then and in today’s climate), and the delicateness that the track provides serves as the impetus for the energy that’s consistently present throughout the rest of the album. It’s a song that meshes love, musicality, the state of the world, and his hope for the world all in one and if that’s not true Stevie Wonder, I don’t know what is.
I admittedly went back and forth with this one because as a Certified Lover Girl, this song whispers sweet nothings to the innermost corners of my heart in a way that few love songs can. And it’s for that reason alone that it almost—almost—took the top spot. I mean, this man literally said he’ll be loving this woman until we dream of life and life becomes a dream. Until the day that you are me and I am you. Until the day that eight times eight times eight is four. Do you know when all of those things are going to happen?? On the 32nd of NEVER. Which means his love for her will be ALWAYS. Forever. For eternity. For the long haul. For the number of his days. Come on, now. You can’t tell me this song doesn’t give you a little bit more faith in love—at least for seven minutes and eight seconds. And don’t even get me started on that 10-second sonically superb run he did while singing “alwaaaaays” at the 2:40 mark. It’s quite literally music to my ears.
You thought I was going to pick “Isn’t She Lovely,” didn’t you? Yeah, no. That would be way too predictable. As would “I Wish.” I mean, I don’t know a Black person on this side of heaven who can’t recite “looking back on when I was a little nappy-headed boy” without jigging a bit but still. No, “Sir Duke” is taking the top spot and the reason why can be summed up in just two words: THE HORNS. The horn arrangements in this damn song are SO GOOD. It makes absolutely no sense for a set of instruments to sound as blissfully euphoric as those horns do but I’m so glad they do. And while we’re on the subject, the amount of bliss and euphoria present in Stevie’s voice alone when he sings “you can feel it all over, you can feel it all over people,” is enough to inspire joy for the next 10 lifetimes. And it’s for those reasons why this song lands in the number one spot. Argue with your plant.
Did your favorites land in the top three? Are you piping mad they didn’t and want to make an argument for a better trio? Meet me in the comments about it! You bring the explanations, I’ll bring the music.