Song of the Day #1,450: ‘Ordinary Pain’ – Stevie Wonder

I’ve never liked Stevie Wonder as much as I feel I probably should. Certainly Songs in the Key of Life deserved consideration for my list of the best 70s albums, but I never gave it a second thought. As much as I appreciate this album, and Wonder’s music in general, I’ve never found it in me to love it.

Today’s Random Weekend selection is a perfect encapsulation of my feelings about Stevie Wonder — it’s brilliant right up until it stops being brilliant and starts being annoying.

When ‘Ordinary Pain’ starts and Wonder delivers the smooth melody and chorus, the vibe is just right. But a glance at the six and a half minute running time has you wondering if you can put up with the easy-going jam for that long.

Then, two and a half minutes in, the song takes a hard right turn into full-on funk territory, with Shirley Brewer growling out the woman’s response to the forlorn man of the song’s first section. It’s a brilliant transition that kicks the song into another gear.

But it gets stuck in that gear for four minutes. I know I’ve given Bob Dylan a pass on his epic songs, but that’s because in his case the length is in service of the lyrics. On this song, it feels like repetition for the sake of repetition.

I guess what I’m saying is that Stevie Wonder needs a good editor.

When by the phone
In vain you sit
You very soon in your mind realize that it’s not just
An ordinary pain in your heart

When you by chance
Go knock on her door
Walkin’ away you’re convinced that it’s much more
Than just an ordinary pain in your heart
It’s more than just
An ordinary pain in your heart

Don’t fool yourself
But tell no one else
That it’s more than just
An ordinary pain
In your heart

When you catch up
But she says goodbye
Hold back your tears and before you start to cry
Say you feel unnecessary pain in your heart

Tell her you’re glad
It’s over in fact
Can she take with her the pain she brought you back
Takin that ordinary pain from your heart
It’s more than just
An ordinary pain from your heart

Don’t fool yourself
But tell no one else
That it’s more than just
An ordinary pain
In your heart
In your heart
In your heart

[PART II]

You’re just a masochistic fool
Because you knew my love was cruel
You never listened when they said
Don’t let that girl go to your head
But like a playboy you said no
or*di*nary pain
This little girl mind you will blow
or*di*nary pain
But then I blew you out the box
or*di*nary pain
When I put my stuff on key and lock
or*di*nary pain
It makes me feel kind of sick
or*di*nary pain
To know love put you in a trick
or*di*nary pain
I knew our love would have to end
or*di*nary pain
The day I made it with your friend
or*di*nary pain
Giving your love to one unreal
or*di*nary pain
Like a big fool I know you feel
or*di*nary pain
But in this lovie-dovie game
or*di*nary pain
With all its joy there must be pain
or*di*nary pain
But now the time has surely come
or*di*nary pain
This game don’t seem like so much fun
or*di*nary pain
You’re cryin big crocodile tears
or*di*nary pain
Don’t match the ones I’ve cried for years
or*di*nary pain
When I was home wainting for you
or*di*nary pain
You were out somewhere doing the do
or*di*nary pain
You know I’d really like to stay
or*di*nary pain
But like you did I’ve go to play
or*di*nary pain
You’re dumb to think I’d let you be
or*di*nary pain
Scott free without some pain from me
or*di*nary pain
I heard your song and took a chance
or*di*nary pain
But to your music I can’t dance
or*di*nary pain
Go tell your story ‘sob-sad’
or*di*nary pain
About you blowin what you had
or*di*nary pain
Since one ain’t good enough for you
or*di*nary pain
Then do yourself see how you do
or*di*nary pain

or*di*nary pain
or*di*nary pain
or*di*nary pain
or*di*nary pain
or*di*nary pain

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,450: ‘Ordinary Pain’ – Stevie Wonder

  1. Dana says:

    You’ve never been one to get into the musical groove of a song. You get annoyed by Sting for similar reasons. Wonder is all about the funk and the groove and the feel. The lyrics are there to service the music, not the other way around.

    Frankly, I’m not always in the mood for this either, but I think my tolerance is higher than yours…or Amy’s as she is listening and saying “this is Stevie Wonder? This is awful!”

  2. Shawn says:

    This double album from Wonder is frustrating at parts (aren’t almost all over-sized albums?) , but probably is THE album to have from him, although I can’t say I’ve heard his whole catalog. Your selection is from Side 2, which is where I usually go when I put the vinyl on. Starting with “I Wish” (one of the best intro’s of all time to my ears) and ending with the SOTD, I find it fulfilling with rocking, funky music and poetic lyrics full of reflection and struggle. In my listening to Key of Life, “Ordinary Pain” is the last song, so I give it time to find itself to sum things up and become a finale of sorts.

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