Through a medium of Philadelphia blues and jazz with numerous spin-offs of various soul artists blending into his own style, John Legend collaborates with the well-known band The Roots for the first time in the album Wake Up! The soul-induced artist incorporates a mix of R&B voices from a Stevie Wonder swing to a Marvin Gaye melody.
As this album was made with President Barack Obama?s election in mind, most of the songs adhere to a theme of change.
The album’s first single ?Wake up everybody? is like an advocating Black Eyed Peas song, but with genuinely good voices and slow, gospel-like swagger. And you cannot have a great song with just Legend or rapper Common; you have to have both.
Simply put, they are a Timon and Pumba-like combo; they refine one another with a pleasant story rap from Common under the orb of Legend?s deep soulful rhetoric.
?Shine? sounds like a typical Brian McKnight song, but with less overbearing crescendos. Although the chorus blares a slightly less nasal R. Kelly voice, the song has a laid-back easy-going feel that is worth spending time with.
The rest of the songs are spontaneous swinging spins off Legend?s simple soulful voice. He adds a bit of the Smokey Robinson melody clinging to a Bob Marley reggae swing to create the intricacy of ?Humanity (love the way it should be)?.
Songs like ?Compared to What? and ?Hard times? are surrounded by a John Coltrane sound slightly less than the fast feel of the groove. ?I can?t write left-handed? defines the Blues-Jazz era with its trickling electric guitar and its pausing verses.
And the piano harmony in ?I wish I knew how it would feel to be free? immediately put me under a Charlie Brown gospel spell. The song definitely tops off the album as it integrates the feeling-oriented album into a finale of realization.
I could argue the actually good R&B soul artists who come about all go with same clich? ?change the world? and other hopeful themes. But hey, nonetheless, I think Wake Up! is still a refreshing change from the usual sex, drug and dance driven songs we?ve really all had enough of.
Legend is certainly a unique soulful fellow who deserves more than just one listen. It would be an added bonus to Legend fans to see him in more collaborations with other artists because when he is in those the songs, Legend can be more cohesive than imagined.