On new al­bum, John Leg­end con­sid­ers love and dark­ness

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

John Leg­end has be­come known as a mod­ern mas­ter of the bal­lad, prob­ing the emo­tional depths be­hind love and dis­cov­er­ing the dark­ness that lurks nearby. Re­leas­ing his fifth stu­dio al­bum on Fri­day, Leg­end stretches into new mu­si­cal ter­ri­tory as he sub­tly broad­ens his con­cep­tion of bal­lads, in­ject­ing el­e­ments of funk and rap. The new al­bum is en­ti­tled "Dark­ness and Light" but in­stead of rep­re­sent­ing some sort of tug-of-war be­tween the two forces, Leg­end sees them as in­ter­twined no love song is spared from a touch of melan­choly.

The first sin­gle off the al­bum, "Love Me Now," is among the most rock­ing on the al­bum, with a beat bring­ing up­lift-in con­trast to Leg­end's big­gest hit, 2013's heartrend­ing "All of Me." Yet "Love Me Now" also has an un­der­cur­rent of loss, even as Leg­end im­plores the lis­tener to cel­e­brate the joys of the mo­ment. "I don't know who's gonna kiss you when I'm gone / So I'm gonna love you now like it's all I have," Leg­end sings.

The al­bum comes at a new stage of life for the 37-yearold Leg­end. A mu­si­cal prodigy whose tal­ents brought him an Ivy League ed­u­ca­tion and a steady as­cent through the mu­sic busi­ness, Leg­end re­cently be­came a father with his wife, the model Chrissy Teigen. Leg­end ded­i­cates "Right By You," a pi­ano num­ber with a smoky jazz back­drop, to his daugh­ter Luna as he prom­ises to care for her but won­ders about her fu­ture and that of the world. "You see, love con­tains a mean­ing of de­spair," Leg­end warns his daugh­ter, his mel­liflu­ous voice backed by strings. "Will we do right by you? Will you have what you re­quire to make your days on this Earth be not so dire?"

Sub­tle pol­i­tics

The re­flec­tive tone of "Dark­ness and Light" may come as a sur­prise to those who know Leg­end more for his pol­i­tics. Long ac­tive on global anti-poverty ef­forts, Leg­end in the past two years has emerged as one of the most prom­i­nent artist ad­vo­cates of the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment and has been a vo­cif­er­ous critic of Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump. Leg­end shared an Os­car last year with rap­per Com­mon for co-writ­ing the song "Glory," the theme to the civil rights move­ment drama "Selma."

Leg­end's lat­est al­bum is politi­cal only on a close read­ing. Leg­end-raised in humble sur­round­ings in work­ing-class Spring­field, Ohio-por­trays a strug­gling city that fi­nally makes the tele­vi­sion news on "Pent­house Floor." "Once you're above the city lights / Won't want to spend an­other night down there on your own," Leg­end sings, cast­ing es­capism as the Amer­i­can dream. "Pent­house Floor" brings in an all-star cast in­clud­ing a lengthy pas­sage by Chance the Rap­per. Leg­end co-wrote the song with Greg Kurstin, the pro­ducer best known for Adele's block­buster sin­gle "Hello."

Also cred­ited on "Pent­house Floor" are Sia and Beck, the al­ter­na­tive rock icon who can be felt on the song's funky bass line and gui­tar licks. Other col­lab­o­ra­tors on "Dark­ness and Light" in­clude Alabama Shakes front­woman Brit­tany Howard, who re­fines her fa­mously force­ful voice to com­ple­ment Leg­end's falsetto on the ti­tle track. Leg­end is at his most in­tro­spec­tive at the very start of the al­bum on "I Know Bet­ter." To the sound of church or­gans, he vows never to for­get his roots. "Leg­end is just a name," sings the man born as John Stephens. "I know bet­ter than to be so proud."

John Leg­end

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