John Legend’s “Darkness and Light” is Just Right

The album cover for Darkness and Light. Darkness and Light is R&B phenom John Legend’s 5th studio album. Photo copyright of GOOD Music.

On December 2, GOOD Music released John Legend’s latest album, Darkness and Light. Primarily a soul and R&B album, it borrows heavily from hip-hop, jazz, and reggae on certain tracks. The album is John Legend’s first since 2013’s Love In The Future.

The album is elegant in its accessibility. It’s been a long-existing shame that only a narrow selection of music makes it onto American radio stations, and Legend falls just outside that group. However, these songs could easily find their way to popularity with the right marketing. The songs on this new album thread the needle well between artistic expression and mass appeal. A harsher critic would dismiss this characteristic as labeling the album as trite– on the contrary, it’s one of the album’s most positive qualities.

Legend himself possesses remarkable vocal talents and fully employs them on this new venture. His baritone voice, equally bluesy and poppy, remains the signature with which Legend signs every piece he performs. The first track, “I Know Better”, is a fantastic soul composition in which Legend is accompanied by a piano and church organ. This intro is probably the best example of Legend’s raw vocal talent — he’s both emotionally versatile in his expression while being tonally pleasant to the ears.

Track-by-track the album contains a tasteful collection of variations of  R&B. Certain songs include the charismatic twang of a acoustic guitar, others the wall of vocalisation provided by a full chorus. The second track features fantastic bars by Chance the Rapper. However, connecting all of them is a certain direction the artist wants to take R&B. Legend has a clear and well-developed vision of R&B that involves making it both creative as well as appealing to people unfamiliar with the genre.

Darkness and Light is a quality album with solid performances from Legend and his band. While not quite ambitious enough to be one of the defining albums of the year, it’s a decent release that’s worth the hour it takes to listen.


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