Happy New Year, and welcome to my first blog post of 2009!
... I thought I would have more to say about that, but I don't. I hope you haven't broken your resolutions just yet. My resolution this year was to give up New Year's resolutions. So far, it's going pretty well. :)
I'm not a huge Stevie Wonder fan. Don't get me wrong--Stevie Wonder is great, right? He's a great singer and a great performer and, probably, a great guy.* But my clearest memory of Stevie Wonder's musical prowess is from the 80s, when he was know for two things: (1) "Stay Gold" the cheesy song at the end of the The Outsiders movie,** and (2) "We Are The World." Neither of these particular songs impressed little proto-goth, New Romantic, Brit Punk baby Jay back then.*** So while I admitted the song writing/performing genius of Stevie Wonder, I never actually felt it, you know. It was a truth universally acknowledged, but irrelevant.****
Then I saw High Fidelity.
I'm sure that you're familiar with the movie--it revitalized John Cusack's career as a romantic leading man despite his increasingly hangdog looks, and single-handedly made the career of Jack Black, and it's based on the Nick Hornby book of the same name. The thing about it is that, unlike Say Anything, the role that made John Cusack a leading man the first time around, Cusack's character Rob in High Fidelity is...well, he's kind of a dick.
Not intentionally, of course, but just because he's selfish and immature and unhappy with himself and he ends up taking it out on other people. The movie revolves around Rob's attempts to come to terms with the fact that his girlfriend Laura***** left him because he's a selfish, immature, and unhappy dick. He re-visits past relationships and sells records and the movie is a sort of ode to good music and good love, the kind of love that can get over one person being a selfish dick and the other person sleeping with a guy named Ian.
Anyway, by the end of the film Rob and Laura have come back together in a manner that is both convincing, and real. And Rob turns to the camera and says "Anyway... I've started to make a tape... in my head... for Laura. Full of stuff she likes. Full of stuff that make her happy. For the first time I can sort of see how that is done."
And then the movie kicks to the credits and the chorus of "I Believe" by Stevie Wonder and it's a perfect example of a song being more than just the "soundtrack" of the movie, but actually telling the story of the movie, and I'm overcome with hope, for the characters, for myself, for everyone in love with anyone in the whole world. That's the power of Stevie Wonder. Of any great song, really.
*I have no idea what type of guy Stevie Wonder is.
**Which is The Best Movie Ever. Or, at least, one of them. God, I love S.E. Hinton.
***In fact, my opinion is much the same as that of Jack Black in High Fidelity, when he says "Rob, top five musical crimes perpetuated by Stevie Wonder in the '80s and '90s. Go. Sub-question: is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins, is it better to burn out or fade away?"
****This week I had the pleasure of introducing a friend of mine to the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth--aka The One True Movie Version of Pride and Prejudice. I hope she likes it.
*****Oh my god, I'm lame. Rob and Laura??? I just got that reference. I'm a poor excuse for a pop culture junkie.