The second movement of SMiLE was one of those “aha” moments when four known pieces of music fitted together in a seamless sequence. Wonderful can describe the entire movement, but it is also the title of the first part- a song that was originally on the Smiley Smile album in somewhat different form. The lyrics talk to innocence, loss of innocence, birth, rebirth, childhood and parenthood -themes that repeat throughout that second movement, and that resonate with me even more strongly now with recent events in my life. The sense that SMiLE was meant as a “teenage symphony to God” also comes through strongest in this movement with references to God, believers and rebirth.
Musically, the second movement can be described as the “beautiful” movement with an emphasis on melody and classic instrumentation. Wonderful is a prime example of this -at it’s heart, it is a classic pop ballad that sticks in your head. In the wider context of all that SMiLE was and is, it becomes one of Brian Wilson’s most resonant pieces of music, and an all-time classic.