- Cy White
John Legend: LEGEND
This was a tough one.
No disrespect to John Legend. He'll always have my love as a vocalist and musician. But a double album? For why? It seems at this point people are just making double albums for the sake of making them.
When Stevie released Songs in the Key of Life, there was purpose, conviction, a desire to push music past its limitation and explore what could and should become of the medium. Every song on that album had a different musical makeup and landscape. Every single song told a different story in order to, yes, map the different stages of life from different perspectives of what that means.
Nowadays when people release a double album it's just a means to offload songs they've stored in their "vaults." It's a musical photo dump where the songs are random, don't follow a tangible thread or storyline but ultimately all sound the same. LEGEND really could've been done on one disc. Could have, in fact, just been the second half and his collaboration with the enigmatic Amber Mark (track "Fate") from the first. Most of side one is comprised of either singles or songs that could've been nixed altogether.
This is not to say the music is bad. Not at all. What's arguably worse is that the songs are lackluster. Legend isn't revealing anything new about himself or his talent; there's no obvious evolution to his craft, no actual growth. The album doesn't follow a cohesive storyline or theme. The features read more as an attempt to add an unnecessary gritty credibility to the softness of his voice and purity of his tone. The lyrics mostly repeat the same tropes of R&B that should've died with the turn of the century (namely speaking of conquests like pieces of collected Halloween candy and trying to prove one's machismo has more testicular grounding than someone else's).
It was bold to give it this title, because, quite frankly, the album doesn't earn the double entendre. There's very little that's legendary about it. A pretty decent, self-indulgent R&B album that's comparable to everything else being released (if not somewhat dated), but ultimately forgettable.