Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, the Williams Sisters (before they were divas), Prince (especially in the 80s), and D’Angelo (when he actually releases an album); sometimes the results can exceed the hype. But most of the time, all we get is people like John Legend and his album, Get Lifted.
John Stephens (you didn’t think John Legend was his real name, did you, this ain’t Booty Talk 74), has been christened and hyped as the new R&B/Soul music savior. And this makes sense since R. Kelly has been having young girl blues and stuck in “stepper’s” music mode. Maxwell and D’Angelo have not been heard from in years.
Rahsaan Patterson, Omar, and Van Hunt (all albums to be reviewed in an article later, if this one gets publish) are somehow stuck in the beautiful underground neo-soul ghetto. Meanwhile, Legend has found a way to appeal to the ghetto, the bourghetto, and the Neil-Drucilla Winters upscale types.
The main reasons for this are his affiliation with super (mostly sampling other people’s music) producer Kanye West, and his chops as a truly trained musician.
While most of the last two sentences cite his major (commercial) strength, it also is the album’s creative downfall. The album tries to be all things to all people, and ends up mired in mediocrity. It is soul, churchy, hip-hop, ghetto, pimp-playa, and sincere.
The album appeals to the teenager reading Hype Hair magazine in high school, and the junior V.P. at the bank driving the Lexus. This quest for appeal takes away from the grit, unity, and soul of the album.
Instead of having a soulful and coherent album, you have some standout tracks, and a lot of “trying to still appeal to people” fillers. “Ordinary People” is simple, beautiful, heartfelt, and honest. The song is a thoughtful breath of fresh air. “It Don’t Have to Change” is the album’s most guttural moment. And “Let’s Get Lifted” and “Live It Up” is secular exuberance.
But then you have the fillers/appeal songs such as “Used to Love You,” “Allright,” and “So High” with generic hip-hop soul tracks that sounded better on What’s The 411 (Mary J. in 1991). The hip-hop collabos (Kanye and Snoop Dogg), “Number One” and “I Can Change” are average at best, failure at worse, all depending on how tolerant you are.
The former track somehow comes off as played and clever at the same time, and the rappers’ verses on these two songs interrupt the flow of the music.
Get Lifted is not an awful album, and it maybe one of the best selling R&B album recorded by someone over the age of 20 this year. But Legend, who has an English degree from Penn, has so much more talent and intelligence that was displayed on this album.
Get Lifted is a pleasant enough listen, but most of the time, it fades to the background, and you just feel grounded. Underachieving sucks.