Magazine article Newsweek

Living Legend; Singer John Legend Prepares to Release a Gorgeous, Uplifting Sophomore CD. Pop Music Can Use the Inspiration

Magazine article Newsweek

Living Legend; Singer John Legend Prepares to Release a Gorgeous, Uplifting Sophomore CD. Pop Music Can Use the Inspiration

Article excerpt

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CORRECTION: CORRECTION: In "Living Legend" ("Music," Arts Preview, Sept. 4), we reported that John Legend went to Penn State, when in fact, he attended the University of Pennsylvania. NEWSWEEK regrets the error.

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Byline: Lorraine Ali

The couple seated opposite John Legend are playing footsie under the table. All that's missing from this scene inside a cozy New York cafe is a little intimate music. That's where Legend should come in: love, romance and heartbreak lit up the singer's stellar debut, "Get Lifted." But right now the 28-year-old looks more queasy than inspired. "Wow, they're playing footsie in Birkenstocks," he says, stirring his tea distractedly. "Now that's true love."

There are some scenes that not even John Legend can render poetic. Still, he's managed to reinvigorate urban music with graceful, soul-filled ballads and simple but transfixing pop. Despite minimal airplay, Legend won best new artist at the 2006 Grammys and, along with his mentor Kanye West, raised the creative bar for a generation of MTV hopefuls. "I think we made something really cool and enjoyable, but I don't think we changed pop music," says Legend, a pianist who writes all his own songs. "Maybe it did push record labels to go with more artistic, less obvious choices. But they soon forgot. Have you listened to the radio lately?"

We have, and that's why Legend's second CD, "Once Again," can't come out fast enough. The album, due in October, is full of songs so perfect and pure they could have been sung a cappella. His voice is stunning whether he's singing about infidelity (a favorite from his last CD) and commitment--or having an existential conversation with God on the overwhelmingly beautiful track "Show Me." Legend just may be one of those rare talents who get better with each record

It's the songs, not the image, that make the man. Legend shows up for breakfast in a white, long-sleeved dress shirt, creased khaki shorts and a pair of deck shoes. "I've always thought of myself as a nerd," he says. …

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