The new songs were released concurrent with the press briefing. “Where Is Our Love Song” features Gary Clark Jr. as a guest and “Can’t Put It in The Hands of Fate” includes contributions from Rapsody, Cordae, Chika and Busta Rhymes as well as Wonder’s five children.
“I had a great conversation with Monte Lipman, the (Republic) president, and I spoke with India.Arie, who had signed with Republic,” Wonder said of the new affiliation.
Asked about the end of his nearly 60-year association with Motown, Wonder said: “Even though I have left Motown, I never leave Motown. That’s Detroit. So I’m sure that we can figure out how we can do some things at Motown. Maybe I’ll do my ‘Gospel Inspired by Lula’ with Motown. We’ll work it out,” he said, referring to a gospel project named after his late mother he had announced plans to record in 2013.
Wonder said that he is working on possibly putting out a compilation EP that would include the two new songs, but definitely has plans for a full solo album at some point, which would be his first since 2005.
“I’m going to possibly do an EP with some various artists,” he said. “I’ll put those two (just released) songs along with the other artists that are participating” that would be contributing songs with similarly inspirational messages. “If the EP doesn’t come out, I’ll definitely put (the new songs) on my next (full-length) project, which is called ‘Through the Eyes of Wonder.'”
Wonder said that 100% of his proceeds from “Where Is Our Love Song” will go to Feeding America.
“‘Where Is Our Love Song’ is a song that really I started working on when I was 18, not even knowing what the song was going to be about, but I had the melody,” he said. Then this year “came all the confusion and all the hate and all the east versus west, left versus right. It’s just a heartbreak. And those who say ‘This is what God has said… this is my religion,’ (it’s just a lot of confusion… I’m watching all this and say, ‘Hold up, how can you be talking about God and there be hate in your spirit?’ … This year, I wrote the lyric.”
As for the other new song, “Can’t Put It in the Hands of Fate,” Wonder said, “When I first wrote it a few years ago, the melody and music and idea, it was about a relationship… a guy saying ‘I really love you’ and the girl saying, ‘Okay, we’ll see… we’ll just put it in the hands of fate.’ And then most recently I was listening to the old things I had done and never finished the words to, and I was thinking about where we are in the world. And I was thinking about how this is most crucial time. … Not just Black people or people of color but young people everywhere are going, ‘This is not acceptable.’ … Change is right now. We can’t put it in the hands of fate. Ain’t nobody got time to wait.”
Among the lyrics for the song: “You say you believe that all lives matter / I’ll say, honestly, I don’t believe you do / You say all things in time / That’s why I say I’m not gonna put it in the hands of fate.” (Wonder added that there was an “explicit version” of the song with a bolder variation on those lines.) “You say you’re sick and tired of us protesting / I say, not tired enough to make a change.”
Wonder spoke about both COVID-19 and systemic racism in elaborating on the themes or underlying issues of the new material.
“We can’t put it in the hands of fate, finding a cure for this dreadful virus. We’ve got to get on our knees and pray or whatever you do… It may not be some magical thing of overnight (success), but if we put our energies of positivity out there, we can find and there will be a solution. … Immediately, I say wear a mask, because it will help you from getting this virus, and that’s what time it is. We must do everything to perpetuate life every way that we can.”
He added, “We can’t put voting in the hands of fate. … The universe is watching us. And for me, we’ve got to vote justice in and injustice out. That’s just what time it is. That’s down the ballot by the way, from your local to your state to your national — handle that.”
Wonder occasionally referred to current events in the press briefing. “How do you have a time in this nation right here, right now ,where a group of people plan to kidnap and possibly murder the governor of a state? How’d we get there? So-called Christians, how do you do that? That’s not the God I serve.”
The singer also seemed to allude to a Donald Trump tweet from the day before that said “California is going to hell.” Said Wonder, “I know that someone was saying the people of California are gonna go to hell. Well, I know I’m not. I know my Bishop Blake is not,” he added, referring to Bishop Charles Blake of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ.
On racial issues, Wonder advocated for a formal period of atonement, saying, “I would hope that America would do (something) very similar to what Bishop Desmond Tutu said for South Africa to do: have atonement. Not just for a couple of years, but I think at least 3-5 years… We can’t act like the things that happened in this nation didn’t happen. … We can’t erase them out of the history books. You know they happened: 1619 did happen. The slave trade did happen.” Calling for love and respect between races, Wonder said, “I’m believing that we all are made in God’s image. So love yourselves, and you’ll inspire me to write more songs.”
Wonder had been a Motown Recording artist for his entire career, since he signed with the label as an 11-year-old in 1961. While he is one of the most influential and successful artists of the second half of the 20th century — not to mention one of the most lauded, with 25 Grammy Awards out of 74 nominations, the majority dating from his magnificent run of albums during the 1970s — he has not released an album of new material since 2005’s “A Time to Love,” which itself was his first new album since 1995’s “Conversation Piece.”
He was extremely prolific during the 1960s and particularly the 1970s, when he released eight monumental solo studio albums — including the classics “Talking Book,” “Innervisions,” “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” and “Songs in the Key of Life” — as well as writing and producing two albums for Syreeta Wright, his wife at the time. His productivity tailed off following another classic, 1980’s “Hotter Than July,” although he has continued to tour and perform at many events, including Barack Obama’s inauguration; Wonder’s 1970 song “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” was a theme of Obama’s campaign.
Wrapping up the press conference, Wonder said, “I want for there to be a time when we all can go to the funeral of hate. … For as long as I live, I will do everything I can, always, to show the love that I feel for you.”