We gave it a B+
Hip-hop, soul, jazz, pop — John Legend is no stranger to tackling each of these genres, and on his latest, he once again offers something for everyone. As always, his perfectly raspy croon is the connective tissue, but it’s an awkward match on pop plays like the uplifting-anthem-by-numbers “Love Me Now” and the synth-heavy “What You Do to Me,” co-written with hitmakers Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels.
Those tracks aside, Legend is mostly in his soulful comfort zone. “Darkness and Light” is a fiery duet with Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard, backed by blues-guitar flourishes and gospel-y washes of Hammond organ. (Darkness and Light was produced by Blake Mills, who also helmed the Shakes’ Grammy-winning 2015 LP Sound & Color.) And while America’s tense political climate comes up in his lyrics — funky highlight “Penthouse Floor” is bookended by a line about “this trouble in this here town” and a Chance the Rapper joke about Trump Tower — Legend mostly sticks to romantic escapism: With sultry contributions from sax whiz Kamasi Washington and R&B lothario Miguel, “Overload” is one his most seductive tunes yet.