10 January, 2014@6:20 pm
With his first two albums, G.O.O.D. Music’s resident soul singer, John Legend, completely nailed it. Get Lifted defined the on-stage persona of John Roger Stephens, while its follow-up, Once Again, mastered it. His third album, Evolver, was a mixed bag; one that found him venturing outside of his usual piano-driven, organic production for electronically driven, radio ready beats. While that album ended up being his least acclaimed, it still nabbed him a Gold-colored plaque for his walls, and at the end of the day, wasn’t half bad.
Love In The Future is John Legend’s fourth solo LP (not counting Wake Up! with The Roots), and despite the title suggesting this might be some kind of EDM-crossover project, this is actually more of a return to form for the singer. The fourth time around, we know what to expect from Legend: seductive ballads with risque undertones, and his heart poured out over the piano’s keys. The album takes an if-it-aint-broke-don’t-fix-it approach, and for the most part, succeeds.
There’s little in the way of crossover attempts this go round, as John sticks to doing what he does best. He knocks it out of the park on the cover of Bobby Caldwell’s “Open Your Eyes” (sampled on Common’s “The Light”), and scores another easy win on “Who Do We Think We Are”, a lush collaboration with Rick Ross (their fourth together), brilliantly built around Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff” sample. The latter begs the question when we might see these two collaborate on a full length project together.
Familiarity makes those two tracks easy to latch on to, but John’s got plenty of great original material here as well. He takes a bolder approach on songs like “All Of Me” and “Hold On Longer”, both of which spotlight his skills on the grand piano, placing him more in the Billy Joel category than the space occupied by Trey Songz. This goes for “The Beginning” and “Save The Night” as well, yet these two are accompanied by dusty drums of Kanye West and company, giving them them the G.O.O.D. Music staple sound. The Q-Tip helmed “Tomorrow” is another stand out.
The rest of the album is solid, but after a while begins to tread already covered ground. “Dreams” comes off as a bit trite, acting as the album’s token “inspirational” song. The classy “Angel (Interlude)” starts off well, however strangely pulls the plug during the middle of Stacy Barthe’s performance. Again on the last few tracks, “You and I”, “Asylum”, and “Caught Up”; nothing terrible here, but they just kind of seem like filler.
R&B / soul has been in a sad state of affairs over the last decade or so, as artists like John Legend are few and far in-between. Love In The Future capitalizes on the best of John Legend’s talents, however struggles to break new ground. While Evolver attempted this with mixed results, Future satisfies, but is not as mind blowing as the first few times we heard a John Legend LP. More likeable than loveable.
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