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CD Review: John Legend's "Once Again"

Sophisticatedly Sexy

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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CD Review: John Legend's

Album cover © Sony Music

John Legend's brand of sexy, sophisticated music was a surprise hit in 2005, but since his style of music is so different from most of what's popular in the world of contemporary R&B, it remained to be seen if he could duplicate the success of his Get Lifted album. Interestingly, instead of going for more of a pop sound this time out, Legend heads in an even more sophisticated, adult contemporary direction. And the results are fairly excellent.

Fresh & Innovative

If you're the romantic type - the type of person who loves picnics in the park, long walks on the beach, gondola rides, things of that nature - you may just fall in love with John Legend's latest release, Once Again. In a world full of stale, recycled, plastic R&B, Once Again is fresh, high-class and innovative.

By now, many people have heard the album's first single, "Save Room". The song perfectly exemplifies the direction of the new album: it's more sophisticated and ballad-driven than its predecessor, Get Lifted.

"Save Room," like many of the other tracks on the album, is a mid-tempo, piano-based love song. It's one of the album's highlights, as is the sweet-sounding "Heaven (Only Knows)," which is about the arguments couples go through and the subsequent making up. Although "Heaven" sounds thematically like "Ordinary People," another of Legend's hits, it's actually quite a bit more upbeat in style and tone. Perhaps maybe the most outstanding track (along with the suspicion-filled "Maxine") is "Stereo," about a groupie/video dancer who jocks musicians:

"She fell in love with the radio, it wasn't really me, so I had to let her go, he sings.

Legend-ary Material

One of the more fun tracks is "PDA (We Just Don't Care)," in which Legend lets out his inner freak regarding making out (and making love) in public:

"You know I love it when you're lovin' me, sometimes it's better when it's publicly. I'm not ashamed, I don't care who sees, a love exhibition, us huggin' and kissin,' he gleefully sings.

Other than the more sophisticated material, there's another very noticeable difference between Once Again and his previous effort, Get Lifted: there's no guest appearances. Get Lifted had Kanye West, Snoop Dogg and even members of Legend's own family on various tracks, but this time, Legend flies solo, except background vocalists on a few songs.

That's not to say that the album's a one-man production, though: among those pitching in behind the scenes were Raphael Saadiq, will.i.am and yes, Mr. Kanye West. But despite the helping hands, this is clearly Legend's show. And it's clearly his voice and vision that guide the album (particularly the soap opera-like storyline that unfolds throughout).

Legend took a huge chance with this release, veering away from many of the elements that made his last album so successful. But the gamble paid off: Once Again is unquestionably one of the best albums of 2006.

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