Songs in the Key of Life

Songs in the Key of Life

100 Best Albums In 1974, Stevie Wonder was the most critically revered pop star in the world; he was also considering leaving the music industry altogether. So when Songs in the Key of Life was released two years later, demand was so high that it became, at the time, the fastest-selling album in history. Wonder positioned himself as the purveyor of a vast self-drawn cosmos, one with a remarkable cache of songs: Songs in the Key of Life, which runs nearly 90 minutes, is effortlessly melodic, broad in scope, deeply personal—and often just plain weird. Start with the brassy and positively effusive chart-topping singles “Sir Duke” and “I Wish,” both nostalgic and modern-sounding at once. At the other end of the spectrum: the stark reality of “Village Ghetto Land” and “Pastime Paradise,” on which Wonder decries the abandonment of the civil rights dream. Then there’s the joyous “Isn’t She Lovely,” celebrating the arrival of Wonder’s daughter Aisha. As Songs in the Key of Life nears its conclusion, Wonder returns to the dance floor for 15 minutes of sumptuous gospel-disco in “As” and “Another Star,” each expressing a deep passion in layers of instrumentation and impressive vocal runs. But Stevie isn’t done; another defining moment on the album is a bonus track, one originally issued as an extra 45 with the album’s vinyl release. It starts in deep space with the Afrofuturist fantasia “Saturn,” and then, as its last synthesizer chords fade out, Wonder zooms light-years to an urban playground where we can hear the sound of children skipping Double Dutch. Sonically, culturally, and emotionally, Songs in the Key of Life is much more than a gigantic collection of songs—it forms an entire worldview.

Disc 1

Disc 2

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