Love is a hell of a muse. It’s definitely doing wonders for John Legend’s music. Granted he has always been a soulful dude but his latest offering “Love In The Future” has to arguably be his best work to date. It’s not just his voice, or even his musicality that brings it home for me. It’s how effortlessly he sets about sharing the core of who he is. For me this has always been the essence of all the great art that has managed to leave an indelible mark on my soul. It is something that as a writer I try to emulate in my own writing, albeit with varying degrees of success. On this album John Legend is encouragingly vulnerable and he displays an emotional intelligence that makes this album special, even more so when set against the backdrop of most popular R&B/soul music today. It embodies all the characteristics of grown and sexy music. It’s a breath of fresh air.
The album’s title gives a pretty accurate indicator of the album’s direction. As the album starts he sings on the title track “It’s a new year for love in the future, not the love I lost …no” On a personal level this is probably the most important message on the whole album. When I first listened to the album it made me sit up and pay attention. It sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album. John Legend had this to say about it “The title kind of embraces where I’m heading in life, It’s the beginning of something new. It’s also the end.”
In the past I have always taken issue with most R&B/soul by male artists. This is because the majority of the time the songs are bout pining for lost love, asking for forgiveness or instead they offer a play by play account of how they intend to sex some women silly. This grates me not because I can’t relate, I can, but I always felt it was too dominant a narrative in soul music. And that is why I love “Love In The Future”. It’s a celebration of love infused with an anticipation and optimism of how that love is going to grow. It promotes stability and maturity in love and relationships.
Essentially the album plays out as a sort of love letter presumably to his then fiancé (and now wife) Chrissy Teigen. It unfolds like a concept album, speaking to the love they will grow into in the future. Each song either extols the graces of a woman or endorses the endurance of relationships. The album as a whole is sure to soften even the most cynical and jaded of hearts. It’s not cheesy in the way most pop and R&B albums tend to be. There is an authenticity and vulnerability that’s relatable and real. And the standout track for me is the piano heavy ballad ‘All Of Me’.
‘All Of Me’ is such a beautifully written and mature love song. It is without a shadow of doubt the most thoughtful, introspective, sensual, vulnerable and honest song I have listened to all year. Lyrically it bears all the hallmarks of all the songs that stay with me long after it will has been exhausted by radio. The music I return to whenever I retreat to nostalgia. The music that inspires me to moonwalk with my muse.It is a timeless. In recent memory with exception of Frank Ocean’s last offering ‘Channel Orange’ the music that has resonated with me that way has been mostly the rap music of the likes of Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole . So even though I caught on to the album later than most people, I still appreciate it just as much and I am grateful to John Legend for bringing back the soul into my playlist.