Why 'Wonderful' Is Adam Ant's Crowning Achievement
Adam Ant's enigmatic stage presence, brazen persona and outrageous wardrobe have touched the hearts of popular music fans across the world. While it’s his work with the Ants that won over fans, it's his single, ‘Wonderful’, that stands boldly as his true magnum opus.
Admittedly, the song is not totally overlooked; the album whence it came from (which shares the same name) achieved moderate success upon its release in 1995, breaking into the top 40 chart in the US. However, it does not need to be argued that if you ask a hundred people who Adam Ant is, those that know him will likely describe the charming, dandy highwayman responsible for classics such as ‘Stand And Deliver’, 'Dog Eat Dog' and ‘Antmusic’.
And classics they are. Adam & The Ants thrived in the UK music boom of the early 80s, now often referred to as post-punk and new wave. It’s fairly easy for the casual 80s fan to differentiate between the two scenes - The Human League and Duran Duran are new wave, The Smiths and The Cure are post-punk - but Adam and co. fit snugly in the middle of both, thanks to their commercially successful pop tunes contrasting Ant’s undeniable punk roots.
Despite the band’s success, it’s the story of Ant himself that justifies why ‘Wonderful’ is his best work. His decline in popularity following the split of the band, notably obvious during his Live Aid performance in 1985 (which was offered out of pity for him, as organiser Bob Geldof remarked: "Adam was over the hill, so I let him have one number"), followed by struggles with injuries, relationships and various other obstacles made for a troubling downward spiral for the singer.
Most icons don’t return from that. They die young and are grieved and immortalised, or they shy away into reclusion. But Ant didn’t do that. Instead, after experimenting with acting, playing shows and even recovering from the death of his agent, he wrote ‘Wonderful’, which was penned about his former girlfriend, Heather Graham.
‘Wonderful’ is an honest, heartfelt reflection that strips Ant to his core, displaying commendable songwriting, brilliant progression and inarguably catchy hooks. Through his strengths and weaknesses, Ant showcased an impressive second wind that took his past into account and yet scaled new heights altogether.
Any singer/songwriter would be content in writing that song, let alone one whose talent was celebrated and apparently exhausted ten years prior. ‘Wonderful’ not only prevails as a peculiarity in the career of the songwriter, but in this case, as an unignorable testament to determination and willpower, even in those with seemingly nowhere left to go.
It is doubtful that without ‘Wonderful’, Adam Ant would be remembered much differently - but that’s exactly what makes it so important. Away from fame, fortune and musical credibility, Ant proved that sometimes, an artists’ work is best when it's pure and isolated from unnecessary outsider influences.
Because sometimes, it’s a verse-chorus-verse love typicality that secures a musician as an intellectual, a survivor, and most importantly of all, a human being.