You would be hard pressed to find an artist so important to the fabric of music as Stevie Wonder. Outside of Michael Jackson, the soul icon may be the most storied male vocalist of the past half century, with a laundry list of genre-defining albums to his credit, not to mention a litany of album cuts and rarities that bolster his catalog even further.
But Wonder's story began at the tender age of eleven and few could have foresaw the artist that he would ultimately become. Signing with Motown Records, Wonder released his first album, The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie Wonder, in September of 1962. But his career would truly take form in the late '60s-70s, during which Wonder would release some of the most potent music of his era, including hits like "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours," "Superstition," "Living For The City," and "Isn't She Lovely," among other timeless songs.
This success would carry over into the '80s, which would prove to be the last decade in which Stevie Wonder would dominate the musical landscape with his sound, unleashing classic material like "Ribbon In The Sky" and littering the pop charts with his funky brand of Motown soul.
But 1985 would be a highlight year for the multi-talented piano man, who would release his staggering 22nd album, In Square Circle, on Sept. 13, 1985. The collection features the hit singles "Part-Time Lover" and "Overjoyed" and earned him a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance at the 28th Grammy Awards in 1986.
In celebration of In Square Circle's 30th anniversary, we've selected the five best tracks that have stood the test of time and still warm the soul.
In Square Circle gets a pleasant jolt with "Never In Your Sun," which sees Stevie Wonder showcasing his storytelling skills by spinning a tale of an encounter with a beautiful woman. A mid-tempo ballad powered by digital drums and subtle piano keys, which Wonder dances over with his lush vocals, "Never In Your Sun" may be a sleeper of a cut, but is sure to win you over by songs end.
We get hit with another tale of love-found on "Go Home," a jittery selection found on In Square Circle that is chock full of Wonder's infectious melodies. Written and produced by the singer himself, the track is dominated by relentless digital drums, horns, and synths, making for a majestic soundscape that is lively without pandering the dance floor, but will induce a shimmy or two out of the staunchest wallflower before they even know it.
Wonder proclaims his adoration for the apple of his eye on the standout track, "I Love You Too Much." Crooning, "Honey you may feel like you love / But I, I love you too much," the soul icon flexes his powerful vocals over the frantic keys, sturdy drums, and dancing synths, making for a track that is equal parts enticing and delightful.
The classic song "Overjoyed," was originally intended to be included on Wonder's Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants, but was left off the album and re-recorded for In Square Circle a full five years later. Despite the origins of the song, "Overjoyed" was yet another hit in the catalog of Wonder, peaking at No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 Songs chart. "Overjoyed" would also be the legend's last appearance at the top of the charts and mark the end of his prime as a Billboard titan and be the first sign of his transition into elder statesman status.
The pinnacle of In Square Circle is undoubtedly "Part-Time Love," an uptempo jam made to get your feet moving and your body swaying. Released as the lead single from the LP, "Part-Time Lover" is infectious and features superb songwriting and arrangement. The song was one of the biggest hits of Wonder's storied career, peaking at No. 1 on four different charts simultaneously and becoming the first song in history to achieve that feat. Another interesting fact is that the late Luther Vandross also appears on "Part-Time Lover" and can be heard humming at the end of Wonder's verses, as well as on the backing vocals. "Part-Time Lover" is timeless and by far the biggest song on the album.