Legendary Influences

John Legend’s debut album Get Lifted was a breakthrough in the world of music. His otherworldly mix of gospel, R&B, and hip hop won him three Grammys in 2006 and the respect of many as one of music’s most innovative new artists.

The bar was set rather high for his second album. Legend went spectacularly above and beyond with Once Again.

Though its success may prove to be a repeat of history, Legend’s execution of Once Again, albeit a blast from the past, is anything but a doppelganger of Lifted. Legend exhibits his musical prowess and eclecticism with a modern merging of ’60s Motown, soul and funk – a true throwback.

Once Again retains Legend’s musical flexibility, and Kanye West as a producer (will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas also produces), but does not feature as strong of a hip hop edge. Nor does it tout any featuring artists. This is a redeeming value for Legend, further proving his own strengths as a pianist and vocalist.

In an interview with MTVe, Legend said his new album was an attempt to “embrace all the parts of me that have grown up, listened to more music and soaked up more influences.”
Nearly all tracks have the accompaniment of keyboards like that of Stevie Wonder’s hits.

The first track and hit single “Save Room,” features a sample from the ’60s hit “Stormy” written by Buddy Buie and James Cobb, Jr..

The affectionate “Each Day Gets Better” is a love song of Al Green caliber. “P.D.A. (We Just Don’t Care)” features a funk beat and not-so-coy lyrics reminiscent of Marvin Gaye: “If we keep up all this fooling around/We’ll be the talk of the town/I’ll tell the world of our love anytime/Let’s open the blinds ’cause we really don’t mind.”

A guaranteed groove-worthy track is “Slow Dance,” whose opening guitar, drum-beat, and back-up vocals are a flashback of The Temptations. And the repeated “I love it when we’re slow dancin’ together” sounds like a play on Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin.'”

Yet another refreshing touch on Once Again is that Legend’s lyrics have taken more responsibilty. Get Lifted was an album of juxtaposition: songs dealing with both faithfulness and infidelity. Minus the latter, Once Again picks up where Legend left off. It is, of course, sprinkled with songs devoted to relationships, break-ups and groupies.

But just like the songs of the times of his admired predecessors, Legend comments on the events affecting the world. The last song on the album, “Coming Home,” is a striking and believable ballad of a homesick soldier longing for his loved ones.

Original and fresh, Once Again is an astonishing follow-up album, worthy of a listen…again and again and again.