sat 11/07/2020

Album: John Legend - Bigger Love | reviews, news & interviews

Album: John Legend - Bigger Love

Album: John Legend - Bigger Love

Soulman as new man, in variations on clean-cut romance

Personal grace and crafted precision underpin John Legend’s neo-soul style, leaving pushing boundaries to others, to stake out the romantic ground we still share. Like Smokey Robinson, he has tireless interest and infinite metaphors for love. “Wild” sees him buy a new car just to drop the top to see the stars, while “Slow Cooker” teases out a simmer’s erotic possibilities, as he lets his groan languidly stretch, rolling words around till his creamy falsetto crests, its vocal takeoff typically effortless. Most Smokey-like in artistic mentality is “Actions”, where the very act of writing love songs is invoked and found wanting when real love fails.

Legend is soul loverman as new man. It’s perhaps fitting that he had the clear moral distance to condemn R. Kelly before others dared, standing as he does in a more romantic tradition, with a clean-cut persona melding Luther Vandross and Cary Grant. “Conversations in the Dark” is all evenly rhythmic, perfect fealty from this long-time model husband of model Chrissy Tiegen, a Sunday morning prayer of intimacy. The conversational “I’m Ready” finds him staying still long after his lover’s gone, as if honouring the space where she was, and dreaming in the hope she’ll find him there. “Favorite Place” refers to “your lips”: “let me do it justice”. Cloying sentiment is somehow avoided.

Arrangements invoke early Sixties R&B, from crackly doowop to harp-led strings, and the compliments and consideration, like the earnest fear of failed relationships in the few songs where love clouds over, are old-school ideals.

Rapper Rapsody’s verses on “Remember Us” slip into easily fitting hip-hop rhythms in a rich detour, digging into dream-like shared teenage visions of watching the late Kobe Bryant score, sexual exploration and “singing Kingdom melodies at church”. As elsewhere, fondness marks these memories, which honour warm friendship.

The former John Stephens was dubbed Legend for his prodigious gifts, and they are lightly deployed, stretching no envelopes. But inside his chosen ground, he moves smoothly.

Legend is soul loverman as new man, with a clean-cut persona melding Luther Vandross and Cary Grant

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Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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