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Love In The Future marks the return of the Legend after his last solo album Evolver in 2008 and Wake Up!, his collaborative covers album with The Roots in 2010.
In his fourth studio album, the R&B crooner and nine-time Grammy Award winner aims for fresh and modern soul music, rather than just plainly remaking classics. Almost half of the tracks include samples or covers from the likes of Marvin Gaye, The Dells, Lil Louis, a smidge of live Lenny Kravitz and even Sara Bareilles.
John Legend once again teams up with long time collaborators Kanye West and Dave Tozer as executive producers. Other producers include Hit-Boy, 88-Keys, Q-Tip, Pharrell Williams, Malay and Doc McKinney. This long list of producers helps give the tracks a mix of different styles to work with and that also blend well with his vocals.
The theme of love throughout the album conveys the pleasures and motivations of being together in a relationship. Although romantic lyrics are common, Legend maintains a classy and passionate attitude on love rather than just pure lust and sensuality. There is also a more overall positive and optimistic feeling here than on his previous albums but there are still some dark moments as well.
The title track is a very brief opening interlude as it introduces the central theme of love and sets the tone of hope and new beginnings. The Beginning immediately follows and finds Legend instantly falling in love and at the start of a serious relationship. The track sounds soft, airy and minimal.
First single Who Do We Think We Are features Rick Ross and is all about living the high life full of luxury and riches. While the sampling gives the track a vintage vibe, it also sounds hypnotically and psychedelically futuristic with an array of sounds from turntables, distorted guitars, a harp, bass, rapping and keyboards.
Second single Made to Love is clearly the standout track of the album and sounds quite the epic. There is an explosive mix of djembe drums, tribal handclaps and the combination of Legend’s passionate vocals with the amazing guest vocals of none other than Kimbra. What makes it even more spectacular is the cinematic ending with its orchestral string arrangement, operatic choir and classical piano sounds. This one definitely deserves to be played on repeat for as long as possible.
Third single All of Me is a truly beautiful ballad and a love song clearly dedicated to Legend’s partner Chrissy Teigen, who he recently married. Another highlight of the album, the track shines through its touching lyrics and stripped down arrangement of just his tender vocals and his piano. The overall simplicity also makes it very reminiscent of his breakthrough hit Ordinary People.
As well as on the ballads, Legend’s strong and soulful vocals are most prominent in his cover of Bobby Caldwell’s Open Your Eyes, the Joe Jonas co-written track Dreams where his voice interestingly gets the vocoder treatment at the end and in the trippy and gloomy rock influenced Asylum where his falsetto is at his best on the album.
Stacy Barthe manages to outshine Legend in Angel (Interlude) with her smooth jazz tone. Unfortunately, the track’s briefness leaves you wanting more of her voice. An equally soulful man himself, Seal is featured nicely on We Loved It, one of the extra tracks.
Although the album is quite long with 20 tracks in total including the extra tracks, it does coast along at a nicely fast pace. However, despite the exciting hit tracks like Made to Love, All of Me and Asylum, several can be given a miss like Hold on Longer, Caught Up and most of the extra tracks. They seem to sound more forgettable and don’t hold your attention as much as the stronger tracks. Perhaps some should have been scrapped for a more cohesive album.
Fortunately, Love In The Future does make a nice comeback for Legend as a solo singer/songwriter. The contemporary soul album is mainly filled with positive tunes that are most suitable for passionate couples and die-hard romantics who will definitely appreciate the heavily themed love tracks.
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