I was watching this video of Kanye West recording a bunch of string and choir sections for Late Registration a couple weeks ago. Kanye told the people in charge what he wanted, but they needed some musical assistance with the melody of whatever song it was. There was John Legend.
He sang and played on the piano for a couple seconds, knowing exactly what the song sounded like because he’s been making music with Kanye for years. (This time, he played the song wrong just slightly, and Kanye corrected him. But that’s beside the point.)
One of those songs he made with Kanye long before Late Registration was “Home (Windy) — better known later as “Homecoming” with Chris Martin from Graduation — which always gets played first when I listen to Kanye mxitapes. All of this happened before the world was introduced to Legend on his debut, Get Lifted, which dropped a couple months after Late Registration. It won a couple Grammys, and the rest is history.
I guess I’m saying all this to point out just how damn long John Legend’s been at this. He’s now dropping his fifth album, Darkness And Light, and has established himself as one of the premier voices in the music world. He’s come a long way from Kanye West demos.
But since dropping his last album — Love In The Future — a lot has gone in his personal life and life outside it. On hand, he married his wife, Chrissy Teigen, and they had a daughter. But he’s also someone affected by and dedicated to shining light on social injustice. (Legend, along with Common, spent a chunk of 2014 and 2015 performing “Glory,” which was featured in Selma.)
That’s what Darkness And Light revolves around — the depths and peaks of life, both personally and as a community, as The Guardian pointed out in its review of the album.
The 12 tracks are limited to three features: Chance the Rapper (“Penthouse Floor“), Brittany Howard (of Alabama Shakes) and Miguel. Legend produced the entire album along with Blake Mills, with work from Ludwig Göransson and others sprinkled throughout.
Stream the album below, and cop it on iTunes.