Appreciating Quality: That Girl – Stevie Wonder

I was listening to this song whilst walking on the way home and it has been a favourite of mine for a while but actually considering the parts that make up this beauty allowed me to appreciate it all the more.

The beat – It is driving, insistent and important part of the tune there are moments built around it.  There are times I think it’s a drum machine and I’m sure it plays a part, but there’s something about the use of the hi-hat and the rolls on the tom-toms that suggests that the drummer wasn’t completely redundant and that also flavours the piece.

The bass – I reckon this is a piece that Stevie was inspired by and wanted to get it down by himself, so it’s key bass, and even thought that’s the case there is still something so smooth and complimentary about the bass with the drums that I can believe that if I wanted to get back on the bass this would be a song I’d enjoy having a go at.

The keys – That Stevie is a whiz on the keyboards/synthesisers and loves the flexibility and creativity he can have on them is as legendary as the songs he’s made with them.  From the opening verse of the song with the subtle subdued keys to the synth piano later on there is something simple and yet deceivingly complex about the role they play.  The many layers they provide helps to build the mood and feel from something low and ponderous to something blaring with crescendo upon crescendo.

The backing vocals – I love hearing stories about how one person creates the harmonies and their own backing vocals so that even if others come in later to record them, they admire the work done by the originator.  This is a song about one man’s relation with his love to be.  There’s enough to be getting on with the lead vocal, but the presence of the backing vocals mixed with the synth support makes this more lush.

The song progression – The build up is intriguing from two verses to the chorus with each build marked by the tom-tom roll and cymbal crash and it reinforces the drive of the song whilst keeping things intriguing with the bridge, then the harmonica solo and the final verse to the repeated chorus.  It is a simple structure, but its laid out in a way that suggests here’s a song worth considering on its own merits for its own wonder (pun intended).

The lead vocal – I’ve been critical of some of Stevie’s live performances because of his tendency to do the twiddles and vocal gymnastics when sometimes he’s at his best without all that, however many people holler and whoop at it.  This is a very good example of how he can convey emotion and the building drama of the piece without all the trimmings.  Check especially the repeated chorus section where you get a feel for his longing and release in desiring the love to know that she is the girl for him.  Great vocal lesson that a lot of singers can learn from.

That’s not even a full deconstruction and seeing how all the pieces of the jigsaw makes it a tune to enjoy and savour for what it is. Another example of music at its best.  Enjoy.




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