Welcome to bLISTerd-where the Popblerd! gang comes to argue about shit.

Let me explain…

Everyone that writes for this blog is here because they love music and pop culture. We love having discussions about music and pop culture. Therefore, once we got an appreciable-sized staff together, it only made sense that we made lists of things we liked. Hence bLISTerd (list+blerd. Like it?)

For our first list, it only made sense to pay tribute to a singer and songwriter that’s a favorite of most of the Popblerd! staff, the one and only Stevie Wonder. Stevie’s been a part of the musical landscape for almost half a century now, and remains one of rock ‘n roll (and obviously soul’s) most legendary artist. Whether crying out for social justice or singing a tearjerking ballad, you can’t go wrong with a Stevie song (generally speaking, anyway). In my humble opinion, he’s the single greatest songwriter of the rock era. Not Dylan. Not Smokey. Stevie.

After polling a good chunk of the staff, here are the 10 songs that got the most love.

10. “Love’s in Need of Love Today” (from Songs in the Key of Life, 1976)

You couldn’t start a countdown with a better song. “Good morn or evening friends, here’s your friendly announcer. I have serious news to pass on to everybody.” It’s soothing yet fervent, and totally uplifting. Stevie’s gospel roots have always run deep, and this song is as close to a sermon as the man has ever done. It’s meant to be redone in a totally kick-ass gospel version. BLACKstreet did  a cover back in 1994 that came close. It’s also one of many Stevie songs that’s been covered by George Michael.- Blerd

9. “I Believe (When I Fall in Love it Will Be Forever) (from “Talking Book, 1972)

Already a brilliant album, Talking Book dovetails nicely with “I Believe”, one of Stevie’s purest and most glorious love songs. An indelible verse climaxes with an ecstatic, earworm chorus; the background vox wrap around you like the warmest blanket; and, just when what appears to be the outro threatens to become too much beauty to take, Stevie and company crash into an abrupt, joyous funk breakdown. One of the most entrancing expressions of joy ever put on wax, and a forthright illustration of one of Stevie’s best unsung attributes: his ability to craft musical motifs that can repeat themselves endlessly without losing their power.-Drew

8. “All in Love is Fair” (from Innervisions, 1973)

As I grew older, “All In Love Is Fair” from Wonder’s brilliant “Innervisions” became one of my favorites songs. While Wonder gets credit for being socially conscious and a pioneering producer of sound, it’s this song which is simply one about love and love lost that touches me most. I have done my fair share of loving and losing and his words have ringed incredibly true to me. There’s no expectation in love. You go in with an open heart. You either win or lose/When all is put away/The losing side I’ll play/But all is fair in love. I’ll play again anytime.- GG

7. “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” (from Innervisions, 1973)

Maybe it’s because he writes such insightful love songs, or maybe it’s because his message songs are so (justifiably) indignant of societal ills, but it can be easy to forget that Stevie has a terrific sense of humor. It’s evident in the camera-commercial parody he shot for Saturday Night Live in 1983, and it’s on full display in the intro of “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” in which Misstra Know-It-All blusters his way through some unintelligible Spanish to impress a girl. She’s heard it all before, but this is Stevie Wonder, after all — once he starts singing about the virtues of not stressing out, she’ll be putty in his hands. Plus, “Don’t You Worry” makes for an excellent cha-cha out on the dance floor. —Robert Cass

6. “Maybe Your Baby” (from Talking Book, 1972)

A slow-burn slab of simmering funk, “Maybe Your Baby” is ominous, almost angry: the repeated one-line chorus (“maybe your baby done made some other plans”) holds weight when sung over and over again with more attitude and intensity over that layered wah-wah bass riff and the incessant soloing of a young Ray Parker Jr. The whole thing is a big, gut-wrenching monolith, searing and penetrating, and it sounds like the unholy union of Zeppelin and Parliament. Heartbreak and anger laid bare.-Drew

5. “Living for the City” (from Innervisions, 1973)

Many of the songs in Stevie’s catalog address social issues, but none so directly nor with as much force as “Living for the City.”  In the span of seven and a half minutes, Stevie tackles poverty, racism, unemployment, discrimination, education, drugs and incarceration, all marred by systemic, institutional racial discrimination.  The narrative arc is made especially effective through the progression of Wonder’s vocal delivery, which becomes increasingly gritty and strained throughout the song’s duration. To top it all off, Stevie’s biting social commentary is accompanied by one of his funkiest tracks, with the MOOG bass and TONTO synthesizer driving the musical arrangement.- Gonzo

4. “I Wish” (from Songs in the Key of Life, 1976)

Undeniably funky, “I Wish” is an absolute blast that, naturally, demands to be blasted (but be a nice guy and wait until you’re out of bumper-to-bumper traffic or your neighbors have left for work before you do so, okay?). A sonic cousin of Curtis Mayfield’s “If I Were Only a Child Again” and Bill Withers’s “Grandma’s Hands,” “I Wish” longs for a return to the carefree innocence of youth (“Why did those days ever have to go?”), but unlike the sad sacks at your neighborhood dive who rattle off their coulda-shoulda-woulda regrets night after night, it never loses the energy of youth. Adding to the fun are a horn section as tight as Joan Rivers’s new face, a bass guitar that occasionally buzzes like an angry queen bee, and, last but not least, Stevie’s half-sister Renee Hardaway as she scolds, “You nasty boy!” —Robert Cass

3. “Sir Duke” (from Songs in the Key of Life, 1976)

Sometimes, I wish that pop music could always be as ebullient and spirited as “Sir Duke”; but then, I think, if Ke$ha were able to craft anything as indelible and instantly-classic as the swinging horn motif that wraps around and envelops this joyous ode to Duke Ellington – and, really, the positive power of music in general – well, it just wouldn’t be as special, would it? As it stands, we have “Sir Duke”, a statement that should legitimately make anyone with a pulse happy to be alive. If you’ve ever heard it, you love it, and if you claim not to love it, you are a.) lying or b.) comatose, and I’ll pray for you; it’s the rare song that functions as it’s own review.-Drew

2. “Jesus Children of America” (from Innervisions, 1973)

Innervisions was my first Stevie Wonder album, the one that made me a fan; it’s one of my three favorites even today. Only Hotter than July approaches it in terms of consistency. Not being terribly religious at the time, and put off by those murky opening notes,  I’d move the needle from  from “Higher Ground” to “All in Love is Fair,” which involved repeated effort given how often I played the album. One day, I didn’t bother. And over time, I found myself shifting the needle past side two’s opener to this song, replaying it obsessively.  There is something about “Jesus Children”‘s slow build, the leap of intensity when Stevie follows “Are you happy when you stick a needle in your veins,” with “Mother Mary feels so much pain” that makes this brooding song unlike anything else on Innervisions. And the arrangement of those background vocals ranks with Stevie’s best: “Pastime Paradise,” “Conversation Piece” and the unmatched “Love’s in Need of Love Today.”- Cristobal Tracy

1. “Superstition” (from Talking Book, 1972)

There are no words that can do justice to how good this song is. As close to a rock song as has ever been produced without the use of a single guitar, Stevie’s best-known song (for a reason) is a tour de force, made even more amazing by the fact that he was all of 22 years old when he recorded it. Flooded with haunting imagery, an aphorism that you can take with you wherever you go –if you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer– and irresistibly funky, I bet Jeff Beck (who Stevie originally wrote the song for and then took it back) kicks himself (and probably wants to kick Stevie) every time he hears it.-Blerd

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