Ranking the Best John Legend Albums

John Legend reminds me a lot of Ice-T.

Stop laughing and let me explain.

Ice-T is known worldwide as a rapper turned actor. Likewise John Legend is known as a singer turned TV personality slash activist slash Chrissy Teigen’s longsuffering husband.

Both are known for their musical roots, but if you quizzed random people on the street to name five songs from either, I guarantee they’ll stumble by song No. 3. At this point both men’s celebrity has eclipses their musical careers.

John Legend might be the most well-known musician today with the most forgotten catalog. Weird but true.

And let’s be honest – while John stood tall as one of the biggest R&B stars of the 2000s, the 2010s weren’t as kind. Sure, he had a massive single or two here and there, but his projects seem to quickly fade from the spotlight. Music didn’t seem to be a major priority then, but he’s back on his piano grind now.

Since I was too tied up in Pandemic Land to give his new album, Bigger Love, a proper review, I decided it’s time to revisit his entire catalog to see how his latest matches up with his greatest. I quickly came to one conclusion – we should be celebrating this guy’s music much more. He’s got some great gems.

Join me as we rank John Legend’s discography from bottom to top. I’ll be skipping the EPs, live albums and Christmas joint BUT I’ll add a noteworthy collaboration to the convo. Album quality, consistency, and impact helped determine these rankings.

7. Darkness and Light (2016)

Soul in Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read our review here

Edd said: John’s 2016 album kinda came and went, didn’t it? Darkness and Light delivers a number of heartfelt, strongly written songs with poignant messages. Problem is, few of those songs stick to your metaphorical ribs. Uneven pop tracks and drowsy ballads take a lot of the luster away from what should have been a solid release. Not bad, but it winds up pretty forgettable.

Forgotten favorites: “Darkness and Light,” “What You do to Me,” “Penthouse Floor”

6. Love in the Future (2013)

Soul in Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Ah yes, the “All of Me” album. Unquestionably, “All of Me” is Legend’s biggest hit ever – 8 times platinum, at last count – but SHEESH did that song wear out its welcome quickly. I think that love/hate relationship reflects the mixed reception this release has seen over the years. For me, the album mirrors a lot of the issues I have with many modern LPs  – overly long releases that feature a handful of good songs but just as much forgettable filler. Like Darkness and Light, it’s a technically competent album but you’ll find yourself skipping over more than a few songs. Probably including “All of Me.”

Forgotten favorites: “Open Your Eyes,” “You & I,” “So Gone”

5. Bigger Love (2020)

Soul in Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: After years of uneven projects, nothing made me happier than enjoying John’s brand-spanking-new LP, by far his most notable release in the better part of a decade. Showcasing a lot more energy and soul than some of the lesser albums of the 2010s, John successfully revisits his hip-hop/soul roots while not being shy to switch up styles throughout. One minute he’s on his piano ballad kick, the next he’s got something for the steppers. That sonic diversity works wonders. Things do get a little drowsy midway through but he rebounds nicely by the album’s end. Bigger Love stands as one of the more notable R&B releases of 2020 and a nice reminder to the doubters that John can still deliver the goods.

Forgotten favorites: “Ooh Laa,” “Remember Us,” “One Life”

4. Evolver (2008)

Soul in Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: For years I said this was the last great John Legend album, a statement that’s not QUITE as true as my memory recalled but the truth ain’t too far off. Evolver features some of Legend’s most underrated songs, with its main issue being a lack of cohesion in spots. Some of those pop ballads that would overwhelm later releases begin to peek from behind the bushes like a Kim Kardashian gif here but they’re tolerable in small doses. One of my personal faves from Legend.

Forgotten favorites: “Quickly,”  “Good Morning,” “Cross The Line”

3. Wake Up! (2010)

Soul in Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: One of two albums on the list I’ve grown to appreciate much more during relistening sessions for this post, Wake Up is an album we don’t talk about enough and, man, it’s extremely relevant today. John Legend and the Roots seamlessly link up like a Transformer gestalt to cover socially conscious soul classics. While I appreciated it in 2010, what really drew me in today was the effortless chemistry between all parties involved. It felt like they had been recording together for years. Every song strikes an emotional chord. In today’s socially charged atmosphere, this release is a must-listen.

Forgotten favorites: “Little Drummer Boy,” “Hard Times,” “Our Generation”

2. Once Again (2006)

Soul in Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Man, I feel dumb after revisiting this one. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Once Again back in 2006 and I’ve spent more than a decade shaking my head at this album’s defenders.  I don’t know, maybe it was the overload of piano ballads that wore me out back in the day or maybe more mature ears can better relate to the themes today. Regardless, John Legend’s sophomore project has aged much more gracefully than I remembered. The lack of a blockbuster track keeps it out of the convo for the top spot, but it makes a very strong case for top honors. See, even someone as stubborn as me can have a change of heart. Sometimes.

Forgotten favorites: “PDA (We Just Don’t Care),” “Another Again,” “Heaven”

1. Get Lifted (2004)

Soul in Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: I’ve always considered Get Lifted to be the definitive John Legend album and 16 years in I stand by that. Expectations were pretty high for John’s solo debut in 2004 – with a last name like Legend, you BETTER deliver – and I think even the biggest critics can admit that he did. Merging classic soul with the hip-hop stylings of the time allowed him to carve out his own space in the industry, helping Get Lifted to be a refreshing but extremely memorable release. Legend became known as R&B’s soulful everyman, a vocalist who can use the elements of yesteryear to speak to the issues of the day. It’s his defining release and the obvious choice for the top spot.

Forgotten favorites: “Let’s Get Lifted,” “Refuge (When It’s Cold Outside),” “So High (Cloud 9 Remix)”

What’s your pick for best John Legend album? Tell us in the comments below.



  1. Get Lifted is no less than a 4.5

  2. Once Again is MY album. Replay, replay..replay

    • As a whole.. Exactly. “Each Day Gets Better” and “Another Again” are kuts of a Lifetime. This album’s been here before (‘o6)

  3. I usually come back to Evolver. I think it’s his most immediate album. His collaborations with Brandy and Estelle make the album.

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