With a beat so clean, opening everything up like clicking fingers, while also offering such a sweet contrast with all the swooning effects and Tammi Terrell’s stunning delivery. Her voice is so pure, it could be an instrument right there in the mix, with her playful personality shining through.
Terrell’s phrasing is gorgeous, the way she pauses in unexpected ways to offer emphasis, but in a sense just also drawing our attention back to her gift; ‘trying … to find’ and I love the way she stretches the vowels, it’s highly expressive, but perfectly controlled.
When you hear Stevie Wonder’s 1980 version of the song he wrote as a teenager …
you can see how original Terrell’s singing was. (Stevie Wonder emphasises key words that make sense in terms of the lyrics’ meaning, Terrell emphasises words as if she’s luxuriating over the sounds. Having said that, this version by Stevie Wonder has one of the most extraordinary bass-lines in popular music, truly; the way it trips about, but maintains structure is something to behold. And on Wonder’s version, check out Michael Jackson helping out on backing vocals).
You can also hear how expressive Terrell’s version is when it is compared to that of Brenda Holloway, which appears to have exactly the same backing track and came out the same year, it seems.
Terrell’s individual style is so strong and so dominant in this song, with all those asides, all the ‘oh baby’ or ‘I’m going to tell you boy’. She’s so sweet, as a performer; something that also shines through in the duets with Marvin Gaye. See, for example, their cute, naughty expressions at the start of this famous song.
I love this so much, those first 30 seconds are so pure and beautiful ... it's enough to cheer anyone up on this below-zero, cold winter's day.