Track Review: John Legend, ‘I Know Better’
John Legend may not earn another no. 1 hit with single “I Know Better,” but he keeps traditional R&B on the ‘up and up.’
Ahead of his fifth studio album, Darkness and Light, John Legend releases his third and final pre-release single. “I Know Better” gives the soul singer/songwriter another compelling record, further building anticipation for Darkness and Light. While “I Know Better” doesn’t sound like a no. 1 hit, it plays to Legend’s strengths.
“I Know Better” begins abruptly, sometimes an off-putting songwriting technique. Despite the lack of an intro, the gospel-R&B record settles in soundly. Unlike much of R&B in 2016, “I Know Better” doesn’t attempt to crossover to pop. Instead, the record stays true to Legend’s roots – a pro. Legend exhibits a beautiful vocal tone. This is clearly the expectation from the soulful musician who first garnered attention singing hooks on Kanye West’s The College Dropout.
A lovely sound palette with piano and organ serves as the primary accompaniment. The sound “takes us back to church.” Other observations include a respectable harmonic progression. The chords are nothing too crazy, but feel right given the stripped vibe of this song. As the song progresses, it grows more exciting with a few more instrumental twists, namely during the bridge section.
All in all, “I Know Better” is a thoughtfully penned gospel-R&B number. Clearly, this is a song that plays well to Legend’s base, not aiming for pop crossover success. In an age where true R&B tends to come from indie-R&B artists, it’s refreshing to hear Legend keep it alive-and-well in the mainstream.