When John Legend finished recording his seventh studio album in February, he, like everyone, couldn’t have imagined the state of society four months later, juggling both a global pandemic and a social revolution, with the police killing of George Floyd causing civil unrest in the streets of America.
On a Zoom listening session for his Bigger Love album earlier in June, Legend said that the stirring 16-track project’s lyrics “feel different now, given the circumstances,” but views part of his duty as an artist to “lift people up.”
“This album is more focused on joy, love, hope, and on optimism,” he adds. “I think my last album [2016’s Darkness and Light] was kind of an album about being worried about being concerned and I definitely feel both. I feel like the world needs some joy.”
Outside of music, Legend might have a run for office in his future, as he and wife Chrissy Teigen have made a habit of using their platforms to speak out on political issues. “I’m inspired seeing such large crowds in the streets — multi-racial coalitions standing up and saying ‘Black Lives Matter,’ and standing up against racism,” the Voice coach states. “I think that’s a beautiful thing, and I think we’re going to see change come from that.”
The Ohio native called on a talented triumvirate of vocalists to complete the album, with each boasting a vastly different skill set. Jhene Aiko guests on the sultry “U Move, I Move,” as the duo sings in unison on the chorus, “Let me in and hold me/ Hold me closer, I’ll follow you up and over.” Meanwhile, Legend heads to the islands to connect with the burgeoning Koffee for a reggae-tinged tune.
Yet the standout seems to be his classy “Remember Us” collaboration alongside Rapsody. The Al Green-influenced track was created after Legend ran into Rapsody at the Roc Nation Grammy brunch in February, and he already had the perfect song in mind for her to hop on.
“I think the album is better with feminine energy on it,” Legend says. “All of the guest vocalists are women on this album, and it improves the album. I’m a fan of each of these three ladies’ work.”
Following the release of three singles, Legend looks for Bigger Love to brighten the current heavy days for his fans, much like he did with his Get Lifted debut album back in 2004. “I’m glad I made an uplifting album — an album full of love and joy. [It’s] a celebration of Black music,” he concluded. The celebration continues on Bigger Love release day, with the “All of Me” artist facing off against Alicia Keys in an anticipated Juneteeth Verzuz battle.