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One Track Mind: Stevie Wonder “That Girl”

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Songs that I've known for a quarter of a century don't tend to stay in my brain's record rotation continuously for that long, but this song popped up out of nowhere in my consciousness once again. Maybe it's a sign that it's time to write about it.

"That Girl" is not exactly an obscure song, however. Stevie Wonder songs that chart tend to linger in the public consciousness because they have a lasting quality to them, after all. But in spite of all the Wonder hits that could be occupying my cranial jukebox, this 1982 tune sticks out to me for several reasons.

First off, it's got this glass smooth mid-tempo rhythm track. Wonder lets a drum machine set the basic beat then has his own drums accenting around it, especially with those fills at chorus time. All topped off by a severely funky synth bass line. This is the perfectly syncopated pulse that the listener is greeted with in the opening seconds before the melodic theme is stated.
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Secondly—and somewhat related to the first point—is that once again, Stevie shows a knack of taking state-of-art electronic instruments and make they feel not so cold and unemotional. He keeps his electric piano and synth in the background and bleats out notes in between the beat to keep the groove in focus. That's why even well into the synth-crazy eighties, his songs still managed to have a timeless feel to them. His unmistakable harmonica in the instrumental break fits right in and provides the link to his more organic classic Motown soul of his pre-Music Of My Mind days.

And lastly, Wonder rarely forgets the importance of having of a good, strong melody. No matter how well Wonder used those gadgets, "That Girl" would still sound good without them. The interesting chord progression wouldn't be out of place in a jazz setting and in fact, I've heard this song adapted to jazz before somewhere.

Oh, and speaking of Music Of My Mind, "That Girl" lyrically covers similar subject matter as "Superwoman," about a woman who thinks she's so badass but our blind, talented narrator knows her mind better than she does and is in love with the real person inside.

Much like I'm still in love with this song inside my head. Will testifying about it to the public finally get it out of my system? Doubtful, but that's okay. My brain's not complaining.

Listen: Stevie Wonder "That Girl"

"One Track Mind" is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

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  • Lil Boo

    Great ! Very well done my music lover. There are a lot of his tracks you could write about particularly songs from “The Key of Life Album” yes, I said Album at that time. “The Album Music of My Mind is a master album I would love it on a CD. Stevie, music will never be out dated due to the fact of his magnificent musical background of sound. You can play his music from the 70’s and it sounds like it was just recorded today. Fantasic job on this one. I love music and like Stevie said “Music is the Key to Life”

  • http://daslob.blogspot.com/ Pico

    Thanks for the comment, Lil Boo, glad you enjoyed the article.