Hotter Than July
Hotter Than July is solidly entertaining, but it’s merely product in a way that his 1970s’ albums never were. The sonic experimentation is gone, the lyrics are mostly lightweight, and the songs are fun and melodic, but straightforward. Aside from a couple of great tracks, Hotter Than July largely feels like formula.
The two standouts are Wonder’s Bob Marley tribute, ‘Master Blaster (Jamming)’, where he comes up with a credible reggae groove, and the beautiful ‘Lately’, a delicate piano ballad that stays on the correct side of sentimental. Everything else is craftsman like, but it’s not dazzling like the best of his seventies work; ‘Happy Birthday’ helped establish a Martin Luther King holiday in the US, but it feels contrived, while there are plenty of pleasant but unremarkable pop songs like ‘Rocket Love’ and ‘I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It’.
Hotter Than July marks the end of an era – Wonder’s still respectable here, but he’s only a few years away from ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’ and ‘Ebony And Ivory’.