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  • They Both Die at the End – General Review
    Summer break is the perfect opportunity to get back into reading. Adam Silvera’s (2017) novel, They Both Die at the End, can serve as a stepping stone into the realm of reading. The pace is fast, action-packed, and develops loveable characters. Also, Silvera switches point of view each chapter where narration mainly focuses on the protagonists, […]
  • My Favorite Book – Freshwater
    If there’s one book that I believe everyone should read once in their life, it’s my favorite book – Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. From my course, Queer Literature under Dr. Bill Albertini, I discovered Emezi’s Freshwater (2018). Once more, my course, Creative Writing Thesis Workshop under Professor Amorak Huey, was instructed to present our favorite […]

Musician a ‘wonder’ to fans, critics

In the 1960s and early 1970s, nothing could top the hit single-producing success of Motown Records. The label enjoyed a near-monopoly over the soul market and achieved crossover success with acts like The Supremes and The Temptations. Great as these acts and their songs may have been, they were essentially a product: a planned success conceived and executed by some of the most masterful minds in the business. When the label lightened up on some of its creative reins, a handful of artists broke through and showed the world there was more to them than climbing the charts. The most notable of these must be Stevie Wonder, a humble blind man with much to say and all the necessary tools to say it. For this reason, he is the pick for this month’s most influential artist. Understanding the full breadth of Wonder’s influence on rhythm and blues, soul, funk and even rap music is nearly impossible. Artists as distant as Sir Elton John, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Coolio have cited the man as an influence. Listening to his music, it isn’t difficult to tell why. In a way, Stevie Wonder is like the John Lennon of soul and funk music: direct, but not unsophisticated, and aiming straight for the human heart while raising social awareness. Only Wonder managed an almost religious catharsis with his seemingly-endless positivism, though. Still, this isn’t to say Wonder was without a message. Most of his music is spiritually uplifting, but the words don’t always match the tone. Take the song ‘Big Brother,’ off his classic ‘Talking Book.’ A fast, playful Clavinet line drives the song, accompanied by rhythmic bass and percussion, lends the song a cheerful atmosphere. Meanwhile, Wonder’s incredible voice informs us ‘I live in the ghetto, someday I will move on my feet to the other side / My name is secluded, we live in a house the size of a matchbox / roaches live with us wall to wall.’ The song functions as a challenge for leaders to address the problems of those at the bottom of their ‘political favors’ list. Between 1972 and 1976, Wonder released five hugely successful and influential records, three of which appear on the ‘Rolling Stone’ top 100 greatest albums ever released. Most notable among these is 1972’s ‘Innervisions’ and 1976’s ‘Songs in the Key of Life.’ Also released in 1972 was ‘Talking Book,’ and unusually, both ‘Innervisions’ and ‘Talking Book’ took home Grammies that year. A double-album, ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ is probably the definitive Stevie Wonder. The record functions as a virtual encyclopedia of the man’s many incredible talents and is testament to his tremendous songwriting ability. Of the 17 songs (plus four more on a bonus EP), none can be treated entirely as filler. ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ might rank among Wonder’s most instantly-infectious tunes, and is a logical predecessor to music later pursued by guys like Donald Fagen on his song ‘I.G.Y.’ The man’s cross-genre influence and importance also cannot be understated. ‘Talking Book’ features a track with a tasteful, delicate and heartfelt guitar solo by Jeff Beck (for whom the riff was ‘Superstition’ was originally intended), and other collaborations include Sir Paul McCartney and legendary jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Kanye West cites the Wonder ‘classic period’ as a goal he strives for, while President Obama said in an interview with ‘Rolling Stone’ that those albums are among the best the world has ever seen. From relatively humble beginnings singing infectious heavy soul numbers like ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ to highly-politicized songs like ‘Black Man’ and deeply personal love songs which treat the subject almost as a religion, Stevie Wonder has come a long way to influence popular music. Still active, Wonder holds a privileged position in pop music: he actually deserves the unrestrained critical praise so often given to him.

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