If you love big-voiced singers wowing you with their insane vocal chords, you're going to be all over Ariana Grande and Stevie Wonder's "Faith" music video — even if it does make you feel a little insecure about your musical stylings at the office Christmas karaoke. While, at first viewing, it seems like a fairly simple affair showing Grande skipping down the street, on reflection the video functions as the perfect metaphor for Grande and Wonder's careers.
This writer is nuts, you're saying to yourself. Does she even know what a metaphor is? How can she believe Stevie Wonder's career is an adorable lady in dungarees rocking some Sunday Somewhere sunglasses? Sure, I get you. But the emphasis on the street setting still rings true.
According to the book African American Lives:
At eight, without formal training, Stevie played piano and harmonica, sang in the Whitestone Baptist Church's gospel choir, and busked on street corners.
So, aside from the choir, the street was one of the first places Wonder performed in public. He never seems to have grown out of this predilection for public spaces — in 2013, he was on the way to the airport in Brazil when he made a stop.
According to the Latin Times, Wonder stopped off at a confectionary and a local saxophone player saw him. He was told not to approach Wonder by his security, but he started playing Tom Jobim, and, according to the saxophonist, Wonder "went crazy. He stopped and asked me to wait for him while he went to his car to get his harmonica."
A 40 minute jam ensued, and you can see a snippet of this below:
And the street parallels don't stop there. Wednesday afternoon, the corner of Milwaukee and Woodward avenue in Detroit will be re-named "Stevie Wonder Avenue" and Wonder himself will be there to mark the occasion. Robin Terry, Chairwoman and the CEO of the Motown Museum commented that:
Naming this street in his honor is reflective of the profound impact that he has had on both the city of Detroit and Motown's legacy.
And she's right: the city of Detroit is clearly key in Wonder's career, with it acting as an early rehearsal room for his first performances and bringing him together with the people who would go on to guide his career. So the street aspect matters.
While this from the street to the stage aspect of Grande's career isn't so pronounced, it's important to note that she first began her career not in pop music or on the small screen, but by performing in the Broadway musical 13 as a teenager. This feels significant. While a television performance or recording an album means you get some distance from the audience, starting off in Broadway is incredibly impressive. Once rehearsals are over, you're not going to be sheltered; you're staring your audience and critics right in the eyes.
As such, the video to "Faith" seems to work for both Wonder and Grande, who both debuted their work in a public arena (though yes, it's a little bit more on-point for Wonder's beginnings).
It just goes to show: you don't always need to start your career in front of a camera. Sometimes, a great set of lungs and a street is everything you need to take your performance to the next level.