Photo Credit: Joe Pugliese
John Legend’s highly anticipated seventh studio album Bigger Love was co-produced by neo-soul artist Raphael Saadiq and singer Charlie Puth, already setting it up for a great listener experience. From the very start, we hear doo-wop in the background of the opening song “Ooh La.” It’s a trap-influenced old school track about good music from way back. That said, John Legend has always been influenced by music that he grew up listening to. In the next song of the album, “Actions”, Legend samples an older “The Edge” by David McCallum, which the newer generation knows from Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s “The Next Episode.” Legend sings “La-da-da Da-da”, quoting Snoop’s intro to the song. The track is about how actions speak louder than words, even if the words are in a song – a reminder to appreciate those you love and also a reference to not just being creative for the sake of it, without actually having something important to say.
Just like with a lot of R&B artists of today, we hear the influence of Prince – “I Do” comes in a strong baseline and funky groove. The track “Focused”, written back in 2017, has a Bill Withers vibe to it. References aside, Legend collaborates with a number of incredibly talented musicians. Romantic lyrics and familiar beats give us a smooth head-bopping tune called “One Life”, written by Anderson .Paak. The influence is visible – Legend has always been a fan of .Paak. The album mixes new sounds with nostalgic jams: “Remember Us” featuring Rapsody with it’s trumpet and keys could easily be a Motown song from earlier last decade, but with a rap verse. Another song similar to that is “I’m Ready” featuring Camper – here, and on some other moments throughout the album, we are accompanied by the sound of Matt Jones Orchestra. Legend has previously worked with the orchestra while making his Christmas album titled A Legendary Christmas.
Each track is extremely well produced and, of course, very recognizably John Legend. Lyrics about love and giving everything to your significant other are included throughout the album. Songs like “Wild” (featuring Gary Clark Jr.), “Favorite Place” and “Slow Cooker” are all about different types of love: the physical, the sensual, the emotional. “Bigger Love”, the namesake song, sounds exactly like what you would think John Legend would release in 2020. The perfect summer track with an Afro-Caribbean beat, yet still diverse genre-wise with gospel vocals in the background towards the end of the song. Another song with a similar energy is “Don’t Walk Away” featuring Koffee.
One of the biggest hits of the album is “U Move, I Move” featuring Jhene Aiko. Starting out with a slow, almost-acapella verse by Legend, the song showcases his and Aiko’s vocals nicely. They sing about a union of two people who feel for each other so deeply that they want to be together always: “I can’t believe that I’ve found someone like you // Oh, someone who needs that somebody like I do.” The song “Conversations In The Dark” was first released as a single and was featured on the show ‘This Is Us’ (where Legend made an appearance). It’s a romantic song about the intimacies of love and the moments you share with that special person. The album has an overall “big” energy, Legend himself mentioned that in his Apple Music notes: “It’s big because it has a diverse range of styles of music, it feels expansive and global, but it’s also big in its color and soulfulness and joy.”
Wrapping up the album is “Always”, a song that was initially written for the Kanye West executive produced album Love in the Future. While Kanye wasn’t a fan, Raphael Saadiq loved the track and worked on finalizing it and adding to Bigger Love. John Legend and his team finish off the album with a song full of hope called “Never Break.” Perfectly timed with the pandemic and protests, the track provides courage and reminds us that love always wins: “We will never break // Built on a foundation // Strong enough to stay // We will never break // As the water rises // And the mountains shake // Our love will remain.” The power of love is something John Legend believes in almost religiously, and we can feel that when listening to Bigger Love. Even the name of the album encourages us and serves as a reminder that there is nothing greater and more important than loving one another. Delivering all sorts of musical genres, Bigger Love is definitely worth the four-year wait.
Written by: Rachel Shubayeva