Once Again

***½

John Legend - Once Again John Legend definitely gets my vote for being the most likable personality in the music business today, bar none. It could be in that vain (of trying to uplift my own fragile ego) that I purchased his latest album, Once Again. Because whatever this guy has, it’s clearly contagious. Having worked with luminaries such as Lauryn Hill and Kanye West, just to mention a few, he’s earning respect one ditty at a time and nearly single-handedly inspiring a full on resurgence in the kind of urban music that used to matter more—namely Gospel, R&B, and Soul.

His complete sophomore release doesn’t disappoint either. Although I have to admit that at times the album doesn’t shine quite as brightly as his first, it’s to his credit that he was able to cast so much light into the darkness during the humble beginnings of his career. If anything, he’s just made it that much more difficult to top himself.

Save Room, the album lead, is a fair average for the music to follow. It’s seemingly forced upbeat tempo, slow build of electric guitar, and lack of a piano all signal that this effort will not simply be a follow up to his most recognizable track, Ordinary People. But that’s not a bad thing. With every popping beat and finger poke at his church organ, Legend is playfully announcing a confidence in attitude that’s refreshingly audacious, without the overly self-centered antics of just about every one of his hip-hop contemporaries.

But that’s already making me sound jaded. And if anything, Legend appears to be about turning around that stereotype of the talented (and some not so talented) black musicians who relish flaunting the riches of their success.

The broad musical attempt appears to be play it safe with highly playable tracks like Stereo, but every now and then small musical hybrids, like the Hendrix-inspired guitar opening of Show Me stand out for special appreciation. Likewise, the sentimental harmony of Each Day Gets Better recalls groups like the Detroit Spinners in a nearly pitch perfect tone.

But it would also be remiss not to mention the booty. Yes, the booty.

After all, the centerpiece of this album is really all about getting it on. No other track exemplifies this better on the album (and maybe on any album recorded in the last ten years) then the free flow exhibitionism of P.D.A. (We Just Don’t Care). It’s a sexy romp that covers all sorts of over-heated scenarios my older brother never warned me about.

I see you closing down the restaurant
Let’s sneak and do it when your boss is gone
Everybody’s leaving we’ll have some fun
Oh, maybe it’s wrong but you’re turning me on
Ohh, we’ll take a visit to your Mama’s house
Creep to the bedroom while your Mama’s out
Maybe she’ll hear it when we scream and shout
But we’ll keep it rocking until she comes knocking.

Damn, the guy’s got some serious mojo.

All kidding aside, the song that encapsulates the sentiments of just about every legendary artist that Legend (the man) can and will be compared to in one fell swoop is Slow Dance. The patented old-school R&B groove is balanced out nicely by lyrics which could have easily been sung by Marvin Gaye or Al Green.

Forget about the world
I’m grooving with my girl
Forget about the news
Let’s put on our dancing shoes
Let’s not talk about the war
Don’t know what they’re fighting for
I propose that we go to the floor and we slow dance

Hey, that’s good enough for me. In fact, let’s start right now.