John Legend - Once Again (2006)

John Legend
JohnLegend-OnceAgain.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

When you're labeled the savior of soul music after your debut album, it's not clear where you can go from there.  For John Legend, the journey on his sophomore album, Once Again, takes him a generation back, to the pop music of the 60s -- and it's an odd choice of directions. While Get Lifted showed a clear influence of 70s classic soul legends like Curtis Mayfield and Bobby Womack, Once Again relies instead on earlier, more musically suspect influences, such as Jefferson Airplane ("Show Me"), the Classics IV ("Save Room") and even pop crooners like Eddie Fisher ("Where Did My Baby Go"), all backed with pop vocal arrangements that sound a half century old. Even his nods to soul artists such as the Impressions ("Slow Dance") sound forced, and blur the line as to what is really John Legend's sound and what is simply derivative.

When you're labeled the savior of soul music after your debut album, it's not clear where you can go from there.  For John Legend, the journey on his sophomore album, Once Again, takes him a generation back, to the pop music of the 60s -- and it's an odd choice of directions. While Get Lifted showed a clear influence of 70s classic soul legends like Curtis Mayfield and Bobby Womack, Once Again relies instead on earlier, more musically suspect influences, such as Jefferson Airplane ("Show Me"), the Classics IV ("Save Room") and even pop crooners like Eddie Fisher ("Where Did My Baby Go"), all backed with pop vocal arrangements that sound a half century old. Even his nods to soul artists such as the Impressions ("Slow Dance") sound forced, and blur the line as to what is really John Legend's sound and what is simply derivative.

Legend's songwriting is solid but lacks the quantity of killer songs that made his debut so pleasing.  Once Again is clearly at its best when John Legend takes off the retro mask, such as on "Another Again," "p.d.a." (though its raunchy lyrics detract a bit) and "Coming Home," a wonderful, moving song about a soldier in Iraq longing to return.

Once Again is meticulously put together and is quite listenable, but almost unnerving in its direction.   It's not authentic enough to win over classic soul lovers and is too oddly retro to appeal to modern urban listeners.  Legend has clearly poured a lot into Once Again, but unfortunately spends too much disc time masked by the influences of others rather than displaying his substantial, original talent.

by Chris Rizik

 
Album of the Month - Juewett Bostick - Shades of Blu
Choice Cut - Kea Michaels - "Not My Friend"
Song of the Month - Bryan Andrew Wilson - "Only You'

Leave a comment!