Album: John Legend

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The Independent Culture

John Legend is the secret weapon behind several of R&B's current successes; his voice, lyrics and piano skills are all over albums by the likes of Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Black Eyed Peas, Lauryn Hill, Common, Talib Kweli and, most recently, his mentor, Kanye West. Legend's story is a testament to perseverance: after four independently produced albums, and a nine-year tenure as choir director of a Philadelphia church, he's finally making this major-label debut, which pivots elegantly on the cusp of classic, Seventies soul and modern hip-hop and R&B. Tracks like "Stay with You", "Live It Up" and "She Don't Have to Know" betray the influence of Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack and Sly Stone respectively, while the brittle beats and cyclical, West African-style guitars of "Refuge" offer a more contemporary soul flavour. Lyrically, his concerns are split between cheating songs of various stripes - he's usually either apologising, protesting his innocence or eyeing up a new conquest - and songs which refle

John Legend is the secret weapon behind several of R&B's current successes; his voice, lyrics and piano skills are all over albums by the likes of Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Black Eyed Peas, Lauryn Hill, Common, Talib Kweli and, most recently, his mentor, Kanye West. Legend's story is a testament to perseverance: after four independently produced albums, and a nine-year tenure as choir director of a Philadelphia church, he's finally making this major-label debut, which pivots elegantly on the cusp of classic, Seventies soul and modern hip-hop and R&B. Tracks like "Stay with You", "Live It Up" and "She Don't Have to Know" betray the influence of Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack and Sly Stone respectively, while the brittle beats and cyclical, West African-style guitars of "Refuge" offer a more contemporary soul flavour. Lyrically, his concerns are split between cheating songs of various stripes - he's usually either apologising, protesting his innocence or eyeing up a new conquest - and songs which reflect his gospel roots, such as "It Don't Have to Change", a nostalgic yearning for a simpler time "when the family was everything", sung with several generations of his own family. Quite literally, practising what he preaches. A household name by Christmas, I reckon.

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