Over the course of John Legend’s illustrious career, the soulful chanteur has amassed 10 Grammy Awards. And, having listened to his new album ‘Darkness & Light,’ he may have to make room for more.
Ahead of his performance on The X Factor UK, the 37-year-old star assembled select members of the press – who he played a generous portion of the project to.
That Grape Juice was in attendance and bring you an EXCLUSIVE preview of the LP, which is led by single ‘Love Me Now’ and is due in stores this December.
Join us below for an insight into new John Legend…
Prior to pressing play, the star explained that the follow-up to 2013’s ‘Love In The Future’ is rooted in Soul. And while that is familiar terrain for the R&B titan, his teaming with Blake Mills (who executive produced the album) makes apparent that it’s a shaken and stirred flavor of the genre. Indeed, many will note Mills for his work with Blues Rock outfit Alabama Shakes. Legend definitely does, revealing that he specifically sought out the producer because of the material he’d baked with the band.
It’s little surprise then that member Brittany Howard features on singer’s eclectic list of collaborators; a list which also includes the likes of Chance The Rapper, Miguel, and saxophonist Kumasi Washington.
So what does the music itself sound like?
Titillating, timely, and timeless.
‘I Know Better’ opens the album and serves as a filling helping of the familiar with its piano-driven production and rousing chorus.
Yet, follow-up ‘Penthouse Floor’ makes it immediately apparent that the LP houses a variety of sounds. A dreamy dance floor jam, the funky cut was crafted by Greg Kurstin and, upon first listen, sounds like it has a bedroom agenda. Especially with the chorus: “let’s go ride the elevator/ they can’t keep us out no more / let’s go to the penthouse floor.”
Legend later explained that the track actually has political leanings, revealing that its lyrics can be read as an afflicted group bypassing the restrictive forces in society to soar to higher heights. The penthouse.
A standout that ultimately functions as whatever one wants it to be; a guest spot from Chance The Rapper re-affirms this as a must for the single treatment.
There’s no confusion, though, about the sensual subject-matter of ’That’s How You Do Me.’
A scintillating scorcher, its haunting production delivers a dramatic backdrop to equally arresting lyrics. He sings: “I rise, you fall, we wreck it all / you always do me right, make me love you and hate you at the same / I would die if you’re out of my life / that’s what you do to me.” Another favourite of all in attendance, if the rapturous applause that followed is any indicator.
Title track ‘Darkness & Light’ lives up to its billing, mixing, meshing, and mashing a multitude of sounds to compelling effect. Featuring Brittany Howard, the hard-hitting song burns slowly before exploding into a Rock-tinged chorus. It’s a sonic cementing of Legend’s vocal and musical versatility. Both of which are also spotlighted on the Miguel assisted ‘Overload’ – a song that boasts sprinkles of Reggae and a stylish sax solo courtesy of Kumasi Washington.
Though much of the crooner’s catalogue is anchored in the realm of the “love song,” he takes a refreshing approach to the tried and treaded route on ’Surefire.’ A truth-baring ballad, it relays the complexities and layers of love through an assured, optimistic filter. Its lyrics read:
“I may not be a lot of things, but I feel it in my chest / No I won’t let a good thing die. We can’t lose hope just yet / I may not be a lot things, but I know we’re surefire.”
Similarly, ‘Right By You’ – an ode to daughter Luna – isn’t the stock lullaby that’s become the norm from new celebrity parents. Instead, it sees Legend pose a series of questions to the youngster. Questions such as “will you think like me? Will you have your mother’s fire?” and others pertaining to her role in society.
Introspective and socially reflective, ‘Darkness & Light’ packs a duality and maturity that musically renders it some of Legend’s strongest work yet.
We’re buzzed to unwrap the album in its entirety this December.