Stevie Wonder was four decades into his career when his third soundtrack album, Jungle Fever, hit shelves. Released on May 28th, 1991, the album is the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s same-titled film that opened in theaters a week later. Stevie opens the project with “Fun Day.” Set to a contagious groove is all about putting us in a good mood. We must also highlight the vocal arraignment in the song and its chord progressions.
“Queen in the Black” is up next, which finds Wonder playing tribute to the beauty of black women. “These Three Words” follows, and it’s one of my favorite Stevie ballads. Wonder sings the saccharine lyrics with ease, and the way that Spike Lee used the song for a scene is nothing short of genius. Wonder then flirts with his version of New Jack Swing on the message song “Each Other’s Throat.”
Wonder takes a vocal backseat on “If She Breaks Your Heart” (sung by Kimberly Brewer) which has become a fan favorite. The album’s first single and funky “Gotta Have You” is up next and shows Stevie Wonder’s confidence and grown man swagger. Clocking in at six minutes, this is Stevie at his best and puts to shame music coming out in the year 2021 from other artists. Ironically the album’s title track featured heavily in the trailers and had a shout on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air wasn’t released as a single, but it’s still a fun song.
The rest of the album is textbook, Stevie. “I Go sailing” and “Make Sure You’re Sure” are both ballads with a profound message. The former is all about loving yourself and finding peace within. The latter is all about the deterioration of a relationship. Finally, “Chemical Love” showcases Stevie’s instrumentation skills and highlights drug use’s harmful effects. Most surprising is Steve adding “Lighting Up the Candles” to the project. Die-hard Steve Wonder fans know that Stevie first performed the song at Marvin Gaye’s funeral seven years prior. The song’s lyrics eloquently speak to his fallen friend while concurrently fitting along with the rest of the album’s mood. After Stevie recorded Songs in the Key of Life, he never needed to do another record from an argumentative standpoint.
Since many consider that his magnum opus. Nevertheless, Stevie kept on providing hit after hit well into the nineties. While Jungle Fever rarely receives mention among his grand projects, it is a solid soundtrack. It’s also one of the most slept on in his catalog.
Final Grade A –
Top Songs: “Fun Day,” “Lighting Up the Candles,” “Jungle Fever,” “These Three Words,” and “Gotta Have You”
Jungle Fever is available on all streaming platforms.