The past few posts have been about song bridges, middle eights, possible analogs in film and fiction, and how one might add a bridge to a song, a piece of writing, a film, and so forth.
In this post, I’d like to talk about one of my all-time favorite bridges, the middle-eight section of Stevie Wonder’s song “Creepin’” from his introspective album, Fulfillingness’ First Finale.
In the earlier posts I noted some standard traits of a bridge.
- The lyrics reconsider the song’s assumptions and/or looking at things from a new perspective.
- This reconsideration is accompanied by a shift to new musical terrain. The song has to get away from where it has been in order to for the reconsideration to take place.
- As a result of this questioning and travel through new musical terrain, a song gains a deeper understanding of what it has always been.
With these ideas in mind . . .
The song opens with its signature riff, a modal progression on the electric piano, highlighted by accompanying synth lines. The riff establishes the somnambulant mood of the verses.
I can hear you sighin'
Sayin' you'll stay beside me
Why must it be
That you always creep...
Into my dreams?
Note the striking character of the musical dissonance, which is not discordant but weird, surreal. It places us on a thickly shadowed path, where the few slivers of light that split through the branches are just enough to help us find our way, a few footsteps at a time. The dissonance creates a sense of mystery and erotic expectation that pulls us through the darkness as we brush against its lush textures. The subtle dialogue between Minnie Riperton’s background vocal and Stevie Wonder’s lead stirs this atmosphere.
And then, at 1:22 (and again at 2:50) we come to the middle eight, and the musical landscape blossoms from modal darkness into a rush of color— the song’s newfound major key. Having emerged from the verses, we find ourselves lifted up into light.
When I'm sleep at night baby
I feel those moments of ecstasy
When you sleep at night baby
We are returned back to the verses with the question that haunts the song:
I wonder do I creep into your dreams
Or could it be I sleep alone in my fantasy?
Note how necessary the bright contrast of the middle eight is to the song as a whole. The mystery of the verses is deepened by the rush of the middle eight. Together, these contrasting yet complementing musical moods combine convey the contrasting yet complementing emotional moods —torment and pleasure— of infatuation.
Completion by way of contrast—this is what a bridge does for a song.
Thank you for reading.