Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Answering the Question

by Ken Houghton

In about 3.5 hours, Stevie Wonder will officially open the Montreal Jazz Festival with a free concert less than a klometer from where I am now sitting. Which brings us back to the question from High Fidelity: "top five musical crimes perpetrated by Stevie Wonder in the '80s and '90s":

If I had to pick, using YouTube presence as a guide:

5. "Happy Birthday" as performed at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. (Starts around 4:22 in.)

Does almost everything wrong. The original is a tribute to Martin Luther King—who then isn't mentioned at all. Just one more reminder of how the Atlanta Olympic Committee lied to the shops on Martin Luther King about all of the business they would be seeing from the Olympic visitors—who were then discouraged from going anywhere near those shops, which spent several hundred thousand dollars on improvements in anticipation that they were not being lied to by the Organizing Committee.

4. Part Time Lover

Almost musically interesting. And detectably a Stevie Wonder song, unlike what follows.

3. I Just Called to Say I Love You

The proximate cause of the question from the movie, and truly a depressing song.

2. That's What Friends are For

Friends don't let friends make songs that don't highlight your skills at all. Even "We Own the World" was careful about that. This effort isn't.

1. Used to Be (with Charlene)

Unlike the later "Gone Too Soon" with Babyface, there's virtually nothing to recommend here; rhyming is strained ("Have another Chivas Regal/Twelve years old and sex is legal") and the history is worthy of Billy Joel ("someone shot the Beatles's lead guitar").

Which abominations am I missing?

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