Stevie Wonder (1976)
After this double album (and change!), R&B, Motown soul, funk, gospel, jazz and pop would never be the same. Songs isn’t a bold first step for those genres, but rather a grandiose culmination of everything good about them, performed by a talent so magnificent he single-handedly almost owned the entire decade, musically speaking. After this behemoth, almost nothing significant or hugely successful was produced in R&B for a few years. That’s how much it dominated. Of course, it could have to do with the fact that the Motown hit machine was weakening. More so than the brave but musically uninspired What’s Going On, Songs could be seen as black music’s ultimate call for the artist’s independence, and the fall of corporate interference. It was a mission of autonomy, boundary-breaking and universal appeal that Wonder had been pioneering for years. This represents the culmination of his uniformly exceptional efforts, and indeed, the apotheosis of an entire genre. What’s more, it perfectly conveys Stevie’s superhuman joy, honesty and creativity. An absolute triumph.
Key tracks: “Sir Duke”, “As”, “All Day Sucker”
See also: What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye (1971), Music Of My Mind – Stevie Wonder (1971), Talking Book – Stevie Wonder (1972), Innervisions – Stevie Wonder (1973), Fulfillingness’ First Finale – Stevie Wonder (1974)