A second after the stroke of midnight on Juneteenth (aka, June 19th, a day commemorating the final emancipation of black slaves in 1865), John Legend unleashed his highly anticipated full-length album Bigger Love to the public. Four years have lapsed since Legend’s last Darkness and Light LP heightened the soulful superstar’s career ever-higher and, let us assure you, Bigger Love was worth the wait. Sure, the new 16-track project is yet another into-the-sunset soundtrack from the man who has been neck-in-neck with Ed Sheeran for hosting the most Mr. and Mrs. first dances of all time. Yet, Bigger Love stands as much more than Legend’s past romantic musings; it’s mature… ready and willing to undergo all the sexy ups and woeful downs of being in a committed partnership.
For love isn’t easy.
Teasing the album back in March on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Legend asserted that Bigger Love is “probably my sexiest album to date. If you’re stuck at home and want to make some Corona-babies… if you spend a lot of time with your partner and you need a soundtrack to that.” And, albeit a few uncharacteristic songs of longing and despair, Bigger Love gets you in the baby-making mood from start to finish.
From the get-go, listeners are all googly-eyed for Legend in “Ooh Laa”, the quintessential ‘let’s-not-wait-to-get-to-the-bedroom’ love song he is so known for. What’s fun about this track is American doo wop combining with Caribbean rhythms in a modern twist of old meets new — a metaphor for a matured relationship, if we’ve ever heard one. Next up, in that same vein, Legend refurbishes Dr. Dre’s hit single “The Next Episode”, smoothing out the backing track to make it anew. Welcome to another installment of John Legend’s life: one of hopeless romance, oftentimes unrequited. I “wanna show my love is strong”, yet “here I go again”… putting my feelings into ballad form instead of stepping up as a man. Thus, “actions speak louder than love songs” and Legend admits he is learning to tell the difference.
Track three “I Do” is upbeat and danceable — a fun anthem for anyone forming a family. “Will you love me just because?” Queries Legend. “With all my faults?” After establishing the foundation, follow your partner “everywhere and nowhere” in the track “One Life” (think YOLO for couples, set to a funky beat). GRAMMY-recipient Gary Clark Jr. joins on guitar in the song “Wild”, boasting a cathartic solo at the end as Legend wraps up his comparisons of loving commitments to sports cars. Next up is the title track, previously released to critical acclaim over the past Quarantine period. Legend’s wife Chrissy Teagan and children join him in the music video for “Bigger Love”, inviting the world to see precisely what this pop star is singing about throughout the new album. Nothing beats a bigger love.
Jhené Aiko joins the steamy single “U Move, I Move”, harmonizing with Legend so melodically, it’s almost as if the two were dancing ballet via vocal cords. Another sexy interlude follows suit, with Legend admitting “I can see my eyes inside your eyes” in the song “Favorite Place”. I’m sure you can take a wild guess where his favorite place is… It’s the lips — get your mind out of the gutter. Speaking of innuendos, sexy and wildly satiating word play is found throughout “Slow Cooker”, leading to a subject matter turning point in “Focused”, when fornication takes a backseat to building a better foundation once again. Bottom line, despite distraction, Legend states “I’m focused on you”, babe.
And, naturally, up pops the world’s next top wedding song.
“Conversations In The Dark” is easily the next number one love song, hands down. With pretty guitar strumming, like gently brushing the hair out of your beloved’s eyes, Legend illuminates how to stop time with your partner as he croons with his signature impressive vocal range. Switching his R&B style to that of Gospel, Legend’s assertion that he “won’t break your heart” is emphasized with purity. Try not to tear up on this one, we dare you.
Next up is the dancehall track “Don’t Walk Away”, the latest single featuring the talents of GRAMMY-nominee Koffee. Up until this point on the LP, Legend doesn’t really acknowledge the hardship that any relationship brings to the table. No relationship is perfect! Yet, even if you’re in the midst of the worst fight you’ve ever had, a piece of you longs for it to be over… for it to be resolved, because the love for your partner is stronger than anything trivial. Let Legend remind us to not be petty with each other. If one song wasn’t enough, Legend includes three more tracks on the album that center around conflict resolution. “Remember Us”, featuring Rapsody, revolves around what to do once the dust settles on a big fight. With a retro soul vibe, the track amplifies the nostalgic narrative of remembering the ‘good ol’ times’. “Let’s go back to the moon,” Legend proffers, since aiming for it will at least land us amongst the stars again. In “I’m Ready” (featuring Camper), the regret and repentance makes way for bargaining — another act of grieving. Between passing symptoms and seasons, Legend just wants to come home and make amends. Can’t we all just get along?
What a missive to hit home on Juneteenth across a country dealing with deep political and racial unrest.
Legend concludes the album with “Never Break”, a song stating that — no matter what the world throws at you — nothing will tear you down if you achieve that coveted “bigger love”. In spite of everything, John Legend believes that people are really good at heart.
Bigger Love is now available on all digital outlets and you can catch John Legend face off with fellow pianist and vocalist Alicia Keys tonight on Verzuz. For more information, visit the social and streaming links below.
Purchase or stream ‘Bigger Love’ album:
- Ooh Laa
- I Do
- One Life
- Wild, feat. Gary Clark Jr.
- Bigger Love
- U Move, I Move, feat. Jhené Aiko
- Favorite Place
- Slow Cooker
- Conversations in the Dark
- Don’t Walk Away, feat. Koffee
- Remember Us, feat. Rapsody
- I’m Ready, feat. Camper
- Never Break
John Legend “Bigger Love” official video:
John Legend “Never Break” official lyric video:
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.