John Legend - Evolver (2008)

John Legend
John_Legend_Evolver_Album.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

With his boyish good looks, richly-ranged tenor and dash of urbanized swagger, John Legend offers both old-school musicality and new millenium appeal. It would've been easy for the Springfield, OH. native to follow an expected formula after his initial Get Lifted success---rollicking jam with rap cameo, insert sweeping ballad, repeat--- but he flipped the script completely with the mellow, moody sophomore release, 2006's Once Again. While displaying his depth and maturity as an artist, ...Again rubbed some fans the wrong way: was he going lizard lounge, abandoning the hip-hop set altogether? And it was probably that perception that led to the performer seeking a lighter, more upbeat direction for his third set, Evolver.

With his boyish good looks, richly-ranged tenor and dash of urbanized swagger, John Legend offers both old-school musicality and new millenium appeal. It would've been easy for the Springfield, OH. native to follow an expected formula after his initial Get Lifted success---rollicking jam with rap cameo, insert sweeping ballad, repeat--- but he flipped the script completely with the mellow, moody sophomore release, 2006's Once Again. While displaying his depth and maturity as an artist, ...Again rubbed some fans the wrong way: was he going lizard lounge, abandoning the hip-hop set altogether? And it was probably that perception that led to the performer seeking a lighter, more upbeat direction for his third set, Evolver.

Does he abandon his soaring slow jams? Not quite. Does he plunge through one fast track after another like a kid through a bag of Halloween candy? Nah. He gives listeners a healthy mixture of both, with dashes of flavor by way of guest collaborators (Pharrell, Ne-Yo, Kanye West) and duets (Estelle, Brandy). Some of them work spectacularly, such as the infectious, synth-laden opener, "Green Light." His voice is sweet, but the mood invoked is an illicit one. "I'm ready to go right now," he croons breathlessly, while Andre 3000 admits that the arrogance may be off-putting, but resistance is futile: "one thing you ain't considered, I heard you when you told your girl 'Ooh, he can get it,' admit it." Another head-nodding cut, "It's Over," recalls multi-layered New Jack-era R&B, taunting an ex that just hasn't gotten the message yet: "News flash, Shorty, we over; we like, Def Jam and Hova," sneers an auto-tuning Kanye West in the bridge, while John's entreaties of "Whadaya keep, callin' for?" build into a throaty climax. There's also a decidedly reggae twist to his sinuous duet with Estelle, "No Other Love," and Mr. Legend isn't so sure he wants a one-night-stand to end, pleading with a new lover to stay through daybreak and beyond on "Good Morning." "I Love, You Love" is another spine-tingling ballad, languorously paced and lushly delivered.      

Unfortunately, some of the tracks mean well, but fall flat. Brandy's voice has never been sweeter (pardon the pun), but the tepid song "Quickly" does neither one of them any justice. "Satisfaction" asks a partner to step their game up in the relationship, but comes across as grating instead of passionate. "Everybody Knows" is too detached to register any real pain over an unwanted breakup, and the conviction behind "If You're Out There" is sincere, but on the syrupy side. Like any other artist, John Legend has managed a few missteps here and there, but Evolver, thanks to his willingness to grow and experiment, is still highly recommended.

By Melody Charles

 
Featured Album - Lasperanza - "Seeds"
Featured Album - Nichelle Colvin - Welcome to Gary
Advance Featured Album - Rahsaan Patterson - Heroes & Gods

Leave a comment!