Artist: John Legend
Label: Republic Records
Release Date: Sept. 9
With 24 tracks and a runtime of 1 hour and 21 minutes, John Legend delivers a lengthy portrayal of love and relationships in his eponymous eighth album “Legend.”
However, what this runtime fails to do is create a unique and remarkable listening experience that justifies this lengthy and mediocre project.
The first track, “Rounds (feat. Rick Ross)” opens the album with a moody and sultry atmosphere. Drums and bass come together to create a darkened sound set against the gravelly and entrancing voice of Legend.
Despite this promising entrance into the artist’s eighth album, “Rounds” quickly takes a turn for the worse upon the introduction of Ross’ rap verse. Rather than meshing with the mood set forth, this verse quickly diverts the song into a near-parody of 2008-esque pop and rap collaborations.
The lyrics, “Pickin’ rose petals in Anisa, France/ Pink peacocks roamin’ at the mansion,” do little to ease the corny tune that “Rounds” has become.
In moving to its fourth track, “Strawberry Blush (feat. Free Nationals),” “Legend” begins to promise an album suited for at least radio and mall pop. Though nowhere near revolutionary, “Strawberry Blush” delivers a catchy tune and smooth rhythm.
Incredibly forgettable and entirely inoffensive, this is the kind of song that exists solely as background music to bigger and better things.
“Legend” continues to meander in this mediocrity, bringing its way to the seventh track, “Splash (feat. Jhene Aiko & Ty Dolla $ign).” Despite the talent featured in this song, “Splash” flops in delivering a serious and sensual audio space.
Rather, lyrics like the repeated titular “splash”and “Splish, splash, I just stay wet like bubble bath,” render the song more as a strangely sexualized commercial for bottled water than an earnest attempt at capturing the passion of physical intimacy.
However, even with these failures, the album takes a promising turn for the better with its 12th track, “All She Wanna Do (with Saweetie).” Where “Rounds” misused nostalgic sounds, “All She Wanna Do” perfectly capitalizes on its late 2010s sounds.
Saweetie’s verse, rather than detract from the vibrancy of the song, helps to modernize it and make it an easily listenable tune. The only downside is that Saweetie easily outshines Legend on his own album, bringing the song from simply generic to generically fun.
Following “All She Wanna Do” comes “Memories,” the 13th track that brings with it a tonal shift in the album. While the first half of the album focuses on the fun and sensuality of a relationship, the latter half takes a slower and more serious approach to love.
Like the rest of the album, this second half is hit or miss in terms of originality and enjoyability. The 14th track, “Wonder Woman,” makes it hard to suppress an eyeroll in its cliche messaging and even kitschier pun.
Legend sings, “You make me wonder woman/ How do you do it?/ Some super power/ You make me wonder woman,” as a ballad of appreciation and adoration. However, the simplistic delivery and likening of his love to the superhero Wonder Woman comes across as cheap and uninspired rather than full of deep-situated love.
Though “Wonder Woman” misses the mark in crafting a song of profound love, Legend makes up for this in the 20th track, “Stardust.”
“Stardust” is the romance ballad that “Wonder Woman” tries and fails to be. It’s sentimental, personal and resonating. It’s the kind of song that plays for first dances and in the background of movie scenes where the main characters fall in love.
Legend sings, “You are made of stardust/ The universe inside you.” Rather than relying on existing tropes of superheroes, Legend dives into his songwriting creativity to create a message of his love meaning everything to him, in terms that spark feelings of the ethereal and infinite.
Legend proceeds to close the album out with the final track, “Home.” As a marker of what this album is, “Home” is unremarkable and traditional, but not unpleasant or untalented. It’s a song that may capture the attention of listeners for a few weeks until it fades into obscurity, just like the rest of this album.
“Legend,” while not a case of overt failure, certainly does not deliver a noteworthy or long-lasting performance.
Kara Anderson is the senior arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kara Anderson is a senior arts editor at The Spectrum. She is an English and Spanish double major and is pursuing a certificate in creative writing. She enjoys baking chocolate chip cookies, procrastinating with solitaire and binging reality TV on the weekends.