Retrospective Review: John Legend, Love in the Future (2013)
R&B singer-songwriter John Legend makes genuine love sound both respectable and desirable on his fourth solo album, ‘Love in the Future.’
The gap between John Legend solo albums has been a staggering five years! We haven’t been without those soulful pipes completely (Wake Up!), but Evolver was the last solo LP. Arguably on Evolver, Legend wasn’t his traditional self, eschewing neo-soul for the more conformist contemporary R&B. With neo-soul six-feet under, new LP Love In The Future takes an exceptional approach at reintroducing Legend as a solo artist. With Love, he is firmly planted in the adult contemporary R&B style, with some modern R&B and pop-rock cues.
“Love In The Future (Intro)” establishes the tone, foreshadowing the love-centric theme of the album. The intro is built in the pop-rock-soul idiom (think “Show Me” from Once Again). “The Beginning” proceeds, finding Legend locked into a committed relationship. It begins with adulation:
“Soon as I saw you baby, I had plans / plans to do it ‘til we have a baby…”
Later, the relationship progresses:
“Last time was the last time / I was one and done / you da best / that’s why I want another one…”
Ultimately, “The Beginning” is a fine, respectable cut.
“Open Your Eyes” covers Bobby Caldwell, continuing to show off Legend’s soulful pipes and artistic maturity. Chris Sholar provides cool, 80s rock grit with his guitar solo. The vocal production is a strong suit. Love In The Future truly takes off with three heavyweights in “Made To Love”, “Who Do We Think We Are?” and “All Of Me”.
“Made To Love”
“Made To Love” brilliantly samples “Video Clash” (Lil Louis). Legend is joined by odd-ball, alt-pop singer Kimbra. The record balances the past and the present. It’s contemporary with ultra-rhythmic, pummeling drums. Yet, it’s still firmly planted in soul, the style that perfectly suits Legend musically. Ultimately, “Made to Love” ranks among his more distinct cuts.
The brilliant, sample-reliant “Who Do We Think We Are” finds Legend impressing lyrically.
Many lyrics have multiple meanings, including:
“We love, we love, we love the stars / we could fall so hard…”
Another instance of numerous interpretations is:
“I.…I’m not afraid to fly / here we are in the air barely breathing and we’re not afraid to die…”
What is Legend referencing? Stardom, living up life, or literally getting high? Rick Ross balls hard on his guest verse, closing with a bang:
“She gets Chanel / Ski trips to Vail / only the highest grade like trees that I inhale.”
“All of Me”
The thoughtful “All of Me” strips down to piano, vocals, and robots, with sensational results. The record is gorgeous through and through, with Legend delivering a stellar vocal. The lyrics are chivalrous to the nth degree, refreshing in age dominated by sex.
“Cuz all of me loves all of you / love your curves and all your edges / all your perfect imperfections.”
“Hold On Longer” doesn’t top the aforementioned power trio, but continues an impressive showing despite its brevity. “Save The Night” brings in a superb, buttressing beat, along with gospel-infused piano lines. One of the best lyrical moments occurs as Legend sings,
“I’m not a one man band / I wanna sing a duet / you and me would sound much betta / you’d look so good in my bed.”
“Tomorrow” is a keeper, sampling Dr. John (“Glowin’”). Legend throws in his chilling falsetto for good measure, with strong results. On the memorable chorus, he sings:
“Don’t wait ‘til tomorrow / we waited all our lives / don’t wasted another day.”
“What If I Told You? (Interlude)” foreshadows the ambitious, yet simple “Dreams.” It lacks the development of better cuts, but remains alluring. “Wanna Be Loved” falls into a similar boat, captivating considerably without matching the grandeur of the crème de la crème. “Angel (Interlude)” is a nice if brief moment, featuring Stacy Barthe. The full version of “Angel” appears on BEcoming, Barthe’s debut album.
“You & I (Nobody In The World)”
Ballad “You & I (Nobody In The World)” is radiant, continuing to exhibit the utmost class. Released as a follow-up single to “All of Me,” it never picked up the same steam. That’s unfortunate – it’s another well-written, chivalrous song. “Asylum” slightly overreaches, delving into modern R&B. It’s imperfect, but deserving of accolades for its ambition.
“Oh we landed / on another planet / and it feels like home here…”
Closer “Caught Up” looks towards the future with modern R&B in mind. Thankfully, it avoids pop and electro-based approaches.
Ultimately, Love in the Future is one heck of an R&B album. Perhaps it overindulges in romance the slightest bit, but at least Legend portrays love as a beautiful, emotionally-based thing. He prudently separates himself from hook-up culture. This is an album for the mature, intellectual listener – the hopeless romantic.
Gems: “The Beginning,” “Made to Love,” “Who Do We Think We Are?” “All of Me,” “Tomorrow” & “You & I (Nobody In The World)”
John Legend • Love In The Future • Columbia • US Release: 9.3.2013
This review was originally published in September 2013 on Brent Music Reviews. This version is an edited version.