Stevie Wonder – I Just Called to Say I Love You

First Hit #1: October 13, 1984

Stevie Wonder had already won all the Grammys in the ’70s, so in the ’80s it was only natural that he would win an Oscar. I Just Called to Say I Love You is that song, from the soundtrack to the forgettable Woman in Red. I will concede that I might be unfair to the film, but it’s not in print, that’s not a good sign for a lasting legacy.

Luckily, Wonder’s song isn’t really about any woman in red, instead it’s just a sweet little song about someone who feels the need to pick up the phone and be nice to his lover. It’s surprisingly open about how slight it is, offering little more than a flimsy excuse for the chorus’ existence, but that’s fine, and actually kind of the point. It expresses love by suggesting that lovers only need the flimsiest excuse to call each other and express their feelings, and that’s a sweet little sentiment. Sure, it might have been annoying for couples at the time, who were pressured into calling each other to say I love you, but as an expression of a very simple love, it works quite well.

It isn’t quite on the level of Wonder’s ’70s hits, it’s nowhere near as adventurous as he can be, but as a sweet little song it’s difficult to fault.

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One Response to Stevie Wonder – I Just Called to Say I Love You

  1. RBerman says:

    In other fields of endeavor like visual art and classical music, people often make their most vital, enduring contributions to their fields in middle and late age. Their experience pays dividends. Why is that so rare in pop music? In the 70s, Stevie Wonder was the wizard of pop-funk, winning the hearts of Grammy voters, jukebox players, and LP buyers alike. Yet less than ten years later, not only is “I Just Called To Say I Love You” not as interesting as contemporaneous funk-influenced songs like “Let’s Go Crazy” or “Billie Jean” or even “Carribean Queen.” It’s not as interesting as a good Stevie Wonder song. It’s “Ebony and Ivory” all over again, a pleasant slice of sap.

    In the mid-80s, Bill Cosby had the most popular sitcom on TV, depicting the idyllic home life of a gynecologist, a lawyer, and their several cute kids. Early episodes derived heavily from Cosby’s decades of material as a stand-up comic, recounting his own upbringing and fatherhood, as well as his reverence for jazz music. After that well ran dry, some later episodes seemed very improv, like “Let’s have Bill babysit a bunch of kindergarteners, and just record how he plays with them.”

    One of those improv-heavy episodes guest-starred Stevie Wonder. He basically showed Cosby’s family how samplers, synthesizers, and sequencers work. Then he led them in trading off verses of “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” Easily the non-edgiest half hour of television content that week outside of “Sesame Street.” And yet very much in line with the life-affirming ethos toward which both Cosby and Wonder aspired in their work.

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