25 surreylive.news NEWS & MAIL WEDNESDAY, JULY 8, 2020 SOUND OUT Legend has it SOUND NT JUDGEME THE LATEST ALBUM RELEASES RATED AND REVIEWED ALEX GREEN John Legend talks to about releasing his new album, Bigger Love, amid a pandemic and a growing, global anti-racist movement L INNER WORLD OCKDOWN has been both a revelation and a relief for John Legend. The multi award-winning singer-songwriter is spending more time at home – an enormous Beverley Hills mansion – with his wife and kids than ever before. John and model wife Chrissy Teigen, who married in 2013, are tackling the challenges of co-parenting their two children. So far, they’ve remained on track. “We have spent long stretches of time together before,” he explains over a Zoom call-cum-concert. John is playing his new album, Bigger Love, to a collection of reporters and writers, and bops his head in time with each new track. “We had long stretches where we didn’t talk before, so I don’t think we’ve learned a lot about each other in lockdown. “But we have also learned a lot about parenting. It’s a more intense parenting experience than we’ve ever had. It’s made us stronger and brought us together.” After a pause, he adds: “It’s definitely a challenge to co-parent during these times.” John, 41, and Chrissy, 34, have charmed their fans with videos of Luna, four, and Miles, two, and on one occasion, they even hosted a wedding live on Instagram for their daughter’s cuddly toys in a bid to keep them entertained. Of course, there has been home-schooling to deal with too. “They are in pre-school so it ain’t that hard other than just entertaining them,” John laughs in his deep, smooth baritone. “(Luna’s) learning her letters, she’s writing them out,” he gushes. “She’s very familiar with all her sounds and rhyming and these little work books that they have. She’s doing pretty well with that stuff. “She’s just an emotionally intelligent girl and very empathetic and kind, funny and I love hanging out with her. “She’s just an awesome little girl.” John Legend, born John Roger Stephens in Springfield, Ohio, is certainly releasing his seventh album, Bigger Love, at a strange time. A pandemic has swept the globe, putting a stop to live performance, while an anti-racism movement makes waves in the US, UK and further afield. The death of George Floyd, who died during an arrest after a white police officer knelt on his neck, shook John. But the musician feels the time is also right to show another side of the black experience. “During these challenging times, some of us wonder if it is okay to express joy, to laugh, to dance, to be romantic?” he questions. “Or do we need to be in a constant state of mourning? “Lately, the images of black people in the media have been showing us with knees on our necks, with us in protests, us in mourning, us in anger. “We feel all those things – I think that’s important for us to show – but it’s also important for us to continue to show the world the fullness of what it is to be black and human. “And through our art we are able to do that. This album is really a celebration of black music. All of my influences, all of the different strains of music that has come from the African diaspora.” Indeed, Bigger Love certainly feels like a celebration of black music. Remember Us is reminiscent of the smooth style of Al Green, while Jamaican singer Koffee features on the Afrobeatsflavoured Don’t Walk Away. John describes one song as “doo-wop meets trap”, pointing towards his childhood steeped in music. He began playing the piano age four, and by seven was in with the church choir. One of four siblings, John’s father was a part-time drummer, while his mother sang and directed a church choir. “I have been arranging vocals and harmonies since I was a kid,” he recalls wistfully. “My cousins and brothers and I had a group called the Stephens Five. My dad and his brothers used to sing doo-wop songs and I grew up around men’s choruses and men’s quartets. I sang a capella in college.” He jokes that his wife is his most important “focus group”. And he’s not kidding. A star in her own right, she is his muse and the topic of much of his work. “Chrissy doesn’t like to get involved too early on in the process,” he explains. “She likes to hear it when it’s almost done, very close to the finish line, because she gets demo-itus if she hears a song too early and then I change it and she hates all the changes because she fell in love with the early part. She’s learned that she would rather hear it when it’s almost done.” Chrissy is also known for her love of a good prank, and in a recent tweet to her 30.2 million followers on Instagram, she threatened to leak Bigger Love ahead of time. Fittingly, the album ends with the soaring ballad Never Break, an ode to their shared life and love. DALAI LAMA HHHH H TO say Inner World is probably the best debut album by an octogenarian you’ll hear this year underplays its quality. Released to mark the Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday on July 6, this collection of mantras and chants goes beyond novelty. Opener One Of My Favourite Prayers starts with a flute-like instrument, before the Dalai Lama introduces it in English, saying he daily repeats it up to 100 times. The gruff spoken words contrast with the beauty of Junelle and Abraham Kunin’s music performed on more than 30 instruments with a cast of people from around the world, including renowned sitar player Anoushka Shankar. All proceeds go to charity FIRST ROSE OF SPRING WILLIE NELSON HHH HH THE grizzled drawl, the yearning of a pedal steel, the boxy sound of an acoustic guitar: it must be Willie Nelson! First Rose of Spring sees Shotgun Willie almost entirely in reflective mode, culminating in a lush version of the standard Yesterday When I Was Young. The sole exception to this ballad-heavy album is the puckish The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised, whose protagonist’s backstory is decidedly similar to our present singer’s. He most successfully pulls at the heartstrings on the beautifully elegiac Stealing Home, but elsewhere his sentimentality becomes a little cloying. HALF LIGHT HENRY GREEN John Legend, above, and with his wife, Chrissy Teigen, right, performing together in a concert at home in a gig broadcast via Instagram HHHH H LAST year, Henry Green left Bristol for a sleepy Wiltshire village and began work on his second album. The result is a dreamy, sensuous work that captures the earthy and natural, and deftly combines it with the synthetic and electronic. While not widely known, Green has some high-profile fans: actress Jenna Dewan, who has performed to his songs, and producer Kygo. If Green’s music strays towards the grandiose at times, with strings that soar a little too high, all can be forgiven – Half Light is a soothing listen that reveals layers on repeat listening. “It’s a song about the power of love to get us through these tough times,” John reveals. “It’s about how love makes us resilient, how having someone in the fight with you makes you resilient. It’s is hopeful and optimistic. “It’s the way I close the album and I think it is perfect for this moment.” Bigger Love is out now. ■ PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTED BY PRESSREADER PressReader.com +1 604 278 4604 . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW
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