John Legend just isn’t all that exciting, is he? He seems like a lovely chap, and he’s quite nice to look at, but I’ve never really associated him with being ground breaking, challenging, dangerous, or striking in any particular way. Is he friends with Michael Bublé? I feel like they should be if they aren’t already. But in he comes, dropping Darkness And Light, sorry I mean, DARKNESS AND LIGHT (all caps, for emphasis) at the end of 2016, meaning that it has the potential to be one of this year and next year’s most talked about albums. Is this the beginning of the John Legend era? Has he finally released something vibrant and interesting? Is this a fitting end to a great year of R&B releases? The answer to all of these questions, of course, is no. Darkness And Light is just as bland and pleasantly acceptable as is to be expected from John Legend.
There’s nothing awful about the album exactly, it’s just completely unremarkable. It marks Legend’s fifth studio album, after a three year gap since his last album. Now, I should say that I’ve not come here on a John Legend witch hunt. I actually really liked Love In The Future, his last record. It was a pretty ambitious 16 track neo-soul venture that didn’t always land where it wanted to, but had great visuals, great featuring artists, and was pretty experimental. There were a lot of different platforms he could’ve sprung from, I was curious to see where he would go from it. The answer, it seems, is nowhere. He didn’t go anywhere.
He peaks early: Penthouse Floor (track two, and featuring Chance the Rapper) is easily the most interesting thing on the album. I’d even go so far as to call it fun. It’s still pretty PG but it’s a bit cheeky, and Chance the Rapper’s verse may be sloppy and lazy but he’s still Chance the Rapper so it still vastly improves the song. It’s almost embarrassing how much more charisma Chance the Rapper has compared to John Legend. He’s gone out with the intention of being a wingman but it’s not going to work. He’s going to go home with the girl he’s trying to fix his mate up with and I can’t say it’s his fault. There are two other tracks with featuring vocals, but I barely noticed them. It was only after doing some research that I was shocked to find out that Miguel has a feature spot and I didn’t even notice.
This album is exactly what you’d expect from the man that gave us Ordinary People and All Of Me. We get it John, you’re lovable and my mum would be happy if I bought you home. But even his lovely voice starts to get a little boring by track eight, Right By You (for Luna). Yep. That’s his daughter’s name. Isn’t he a great husband? Isn’t he a great father? Who cares? Rihanna’s Anti is a pretty boring album but at least she throws in a Tame Impala cover. By this point in the album I’m actually getting a little desperate for anything worth mentioning. It’s not a bad album, but it’s so dull that it’s actually filling me with rage. I could be listening to anything else, even if it was terrible, and at least I’d have an opinion. This, unfortunately, inspires nothing.
After 45 long minutes the album finishes, and the silence is more thought provoking than anything the past three quarters of an hour had to offer.