John Legend reaches for diversity, experimentation


When John Legend toured with his debut CD “Get Lifted,” he incorporated a segment where he played songs he had written for other artists. Whether it was showboating or just in case somebody in the audience did not know much about his music is yet to be determined.

Today, however, not many people are unaware who this Ohio native R’B singer-songwriter-pianist is. After winning three Grammys for “Get Lifted,” Legend follows up with his second album, “Once Again,” and after having a number of guest artists on the first CD, this time he decided to do it by himself.

The melodies are not as soulful this time around, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes it distinctively different from the usual Legend sound. The first half of the CD has a lot of pop mixed into it, but it gets closer to R’B because of Legend’s old-fashioned voice. It did not occur to me at first, but after having it pointed out to me by a friend of mine who studies music, several songs sound similar to pop/rock music.

Songs like “Save Room” could have been written for The Cardigans and “Show Me” slightly resembles the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication,” or maybe even Jimi Hendrix, music-wise that is. It does not become clear until the fourth or fifth time you listen to it, but the similarities are there.

“P.D.A. (We Just Don’t Care)” is a song with a happy feel to it about how carefree you are when you are in love and ignore all rules when spending time with that special someone. It is one of the few songs where Legend is not singing about dead-end relationships and cheating, which several of his songs tend to be about.

It is said that Legend, whose real name is John Stephens, got the “Legend” stage name because he sounds like an old-school legend artist. On “Slow Dance,” he does the name justice by having a typical old-school feel to the song with a male choir in the background and slow rhythm.

The highlight of the album has to be “Again,” which is more similar to the songs on “Get Lifted.” It is about a relationship built on passion rather than trust and how it all goes wrong and then they make up and break up, again.

“Another Again” seems like a sequel to “Again.” Same topic, same drama and it is just as good.

Legend’s sophomore album shows more diversity than the first one. He is growing as an artist and is not afraid to experiment. There is not one standard sound throughout the CD, which “Get Lifted” had. Those who are more open-minded to their music selection will enjoy this album more than those who just expect another R’B CD. Given a chance, “Once Again” will grow on you, just like Legend himself.