John Legend has been a constant in the game. Somebody that you could always rely on to put out good music. He’s extremely talented and in my opinion he’s one of the best singers out there today. His career has been filled with numerous awards, huge hits, and a catalog of mostly good to great albums, and yet for me there’s always been something missing. While he’s put out a ton of technically good music, he’s never made anything that’s stuck with me long term. Nothing that’s resonated at a deeper level. He’s always played things too safe for me and it’s something I was hoping he’d look to push past with Darkness and Light.
“Only future I can see, ain’t what it used to be And I didn’t know this, I didn’t know this Once you’re above the city lights Won’t want to spend another night, down there on your own”
When I heard the first single, “Love Me Now”, I had little hope that he’d look to push the boundaries. Yeah it’s an ok song, but it’s so safe, like most of his previous works; technically great, but emotionally lacking. Luckily, that lead single wasn’t representative of Darkness and Light as a whole. Yes there are still his bread and butter grandiose, gospely arrangements, but in general there’s a concerted effort to escape his comfort zone and really dig into more emotional and introspective material. “Penthouse Floor”, “Overload”, “What You Do To Me” are some of his most ambitious songs in years but even they play things a little too safe for me.
“Let that cellphone ring, let that bluebird sing, let that message say unread Let them talk about us, let them talk too much while we rule the whole world from our bed”
Lyrically, John Legend tries to dig a little deeper this time around and tries to reconcile his artistry with his more vocal and opinionated public self. It’s a commendable attempt that he unfortunately never fully commits to. Touching on deeper issues and speaking with more raw emotion, but still remaining firmly on the outskirts. While his lyrical content isn’t as big of a step forward as I was hoping for, his vocals are as good as ever. His silky smooth singing ensures that no matter how safe he plays it, his music will always sound good.
Have you heard Darkness and Light? What’d you think about it? Do you think he plays it too safe? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to leave your rating for the album.
Darkness and Light is his most ambitious album in years, flirting with the deeper, darker side of himself but never fully committing to going 'there.' Resulting in yet another great sounding but safe album that doesn't resonate for all that long.