Evolver (released October 28, 2008)
Have you ever encountered a musician who you know you’re supposed to like, but something just doesn’t do it for you? You recognize the person’s talent and everyone talks about how great he or she is, but for some reason you’re just not convinced?
For me, John Legend is that artist.
Five years ago, before his first album was released, a friend saw him perform and swore that I’d love him. A few months later, the wife saw him in concert and gave me a similar report.
But when his first album, Get Lifted, dropped in 2004, I was kinda underwhelmed. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t blow me away. I certainly thought he was talented, his voice was better than most, and I loved his creativity, but something just didn’t grab me. His second album, Once Again, was an even bigger disappointment. But Evolver finally has captured my attention.
You’ve probably heard his first single, “Green Light.” As the album title alludes to, it’s a step away from the dreamy, slow tracks Legend is known for. “Green Light” is extremely upbeat and danceable, yet it doesn’t fall into the gimmicky cliches like a lot of stuff on the radio. In essence, he changes his style without totally selling out his core audience – too bad Musiq Soulchild wasn’t paying attention when he dropped that “Radio” song.
And while tracks like “It’s Over” (featuring Kanye and his STUPID auto-tune) and “Quickly” (with Brandy) make this album is a little more upbeat than others, he still makes sure to slow things down. “Good Morning” and “This Time” is straight-up grown-folks music – sensual without the sleaze.
Legend still has some snoozers – “Take Me Away” nearly put me to sleep at the wheel of my car. “If You’re Out There” is supposed to be one of those call-to-action songs, but it just sounds like something that would play over the credits of Hotel Rwanda. But fans of his older songs like “Save Room” and “Ordinary People” probably will enjoy them.
That brings up a good point – I hope fans of Legend’s past albums give this one a chance. It’s a slightly different direction but I think it’s a needed one. I mean, it convinced me to finally fall for the hype – and y’all know I dislike pretty much everything.
Best tracks: “Green Light,” Good Morning,” “Cross The Line”
4 stars out of 5