by John LegendJohn Legend


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Unlike John Legend's first four proper studio albums, this one, his fifth, was produced almost entirely by one person. Floored by Alabama Shakes' Sound & Color, Legend -- coming off his first number one pop hit and an Academy Award -- recruited Blake Mills, that album's chief collaborator. Mills, who also plays several instruments and co-writes almost every song, responds in kind here with a similarly vivid touch. Even at its most processed, the album sounds handwrought, a fully evolved synthesis of gospel, folk, rhythm & blues, and adult pop. Legend's supporting cast of songwriters, an unconventional mix of commercial pop and underground figures that widely ranges from John Ryan to Will Oldham, is completely different to that of 2013's Love in the Future. The bulk of the songs are thematically similar nonetheless, with the embrace of an intense and long-term partnership -- up against "all that shit from the outside" -- at the center. A little more personal and societal context is drawn here. It starts with "I Know Better," a ballad led by Larry Goldings' Hammond organ and piano, where Legend enters in almost startling fashion with "They say sing what you know, but I've sung what they want." He renounces vanity, then beams "My history has brought me to this place/There's power in the color of my face." After the elegant funk-soul number "Penthouse Floor," a triumphantly escapist number enhanced by Chance the Rapper, the content switches to more personal matters. A one-night stand ("Temporary Painless"), the rejection of anxieties to seize commitment ("Surefire"), love after war ("What You Do to Me"), and life under a microscope ("Overload") are among the subjects. There's also a moving ballad, featuring tenor sax from Kamasi Washington, addressed to Legend's daughter. In addition to Legend's laser focus and Mills' presence, the album is tied together by the supreme rhythm section of Pino Palladino and Chris "Daddy" Dave. Each track has its own kind of burning intensity. The album's front, back, and inner photos are in black-and-white, but the music evokes rich shades of yellow, orange, and red.

Product Details

Release Date: 12/02/2016
Label: Columbia Records
UPC: 0889853795321
catalogNumber: 537953
Rank: 9992

Album Credits

Performance Credits

John Legend   Primary Artist,Piano,Vocals
Larry Goldings   Piano,Keyboards,Hammond Organ
Caroline Dale   Cello
Wendy Melvoin   Bass
Pino Palladino   Bass
John Ryan   Synthesizer,Percussion,Piano,Drums
Sebastian Steinberg   Bass
Peter Lale   Viola
Bruce White   Viola
Gavin Greenaway   Conductor
Zac Rae   Piano,Keyboards,Hammond Organ
JL   Vocals
Kamasi Washington   Tenor Saxophone
Rob Moose   Violin,Viola
Z. Berg   Background Vocals
Perry Montague-Mason   Leader
Blake Mills   Synthesizer,Bass,Guitar,Percussion,Keyboards,Background Vocals,Guitarron,Slide Guitar
C.J. Camerieri   Trumpet
Chris Dave   Drums
Holly Laessig   Background Vocals
Perfume Genius   Background Vocals
Jess Wolfe   Background Vocals
Brittany Howard   Vocals
Jessy Wilson   Background Vocals
Miguel Pimentel   Vocals
Chance the Rapper   Vocals
Tobias Jesso   Background Vocals
Dave Daniels   Cello

Technical Credits

Isobel Griffiths   String Contractor
Greg Kurstin   Composer
John Ryan   Composer,Programming,Producer
Michael Tucker   Composer
Matt Sweeney   Composer
Will Oldham   Composer
John Stephens   Composer
Justin Tranter   Composer
John Legend   Executive Producer
Rob Moose   String Arrangements
Perry Montague-Mason   String Section Leader
Blake Mills   Composer,Programming,Producer,Executive Producer
Shawn Everett   Engineer
Ludwig Goransson   Composer
Francis White   Composer
Julia Michaels   Composer
Ethan Gruska   Composer
Christopher Feldmann   Art Direction
Miguel Pimentel   Composer
Tobias Jesso   Composer
Buddy Bojorquez   Graphic Design
Chancellor Bennet   Composer

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