The first words on John Legend’s new album “Love In The Future” echo for about two minutes: “It’s a new year for love, for love In the future. Not the love I lost ... not the love I lost.” With each reverberating refrain, he reminds us of what we are about to hear, and dares us to keep going.
Two things are apparent about Legend from “Love In The Future”: He is in prime baby-making mode, and he’s simultaneously excited and terrified about his nuptials to Victoria's Secret model Chrissy Teigen. It is only natural that he write his own prenuptial mix tape, much of which we also expect to hear Oct. 20 at the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods Casino and Oct. 22 at the Citi Wang Theatre.
“Love in the Future” explores this new chapter of Legend’s story, both musical and personal. Though he played piano for Lauryn Hill’s 1998 classic, “Everything Is Everything,” and his inaugural album “Get Lifted” (2004) earned him three Grammys, it was the single “Save Room” off of “Once Again” (2006) that solidified Legend as a modern soul mainstay. On “Wake Up!,” his 2010 collaboration with The Roots, Legend confronted his aspirations through the sounds of his R&B music heroes. Now, his latest album explores is the culmination of his expectations—for marriage, his career and his new sound.
The first half of “Love in the Future” feels ethereal, yet tightly wound, like harps with steel strings on top of 808 beats. Though we have learned from his last three albums never to expect the same from Legend, the singer still manages to maintain his familiar sexiness and sly vibe. In the album’s lead single “Made To Love,” you can almost hear Legend winking through all the baby puns, (“Soon as I saw you, baby, I had plans/ Plans to do it ‘til we have a baby/ even if the world is crazy”) but beneath the playful lyrics, there is a conflicted 30-something on the cusp of genuine adulthood, eagerly awaiting his chance at happiness and making some “little tax write-offs.”
Kanye West, Legend’s longtime friend and the album’s executive producer, assumed a hands-off approach while working on “Love in the Future”—he was in the throes of his own album, the both celebrated and critiqued “Yeezus.” West’s influences bleed into Legend’s music, as exemplified in “Dreams,” which exhibits a sensual though vaguely mechanical sound, like a lover’s voice in a synthesizer.
Even at its darkest, “Love in the Future” is unashamedly sexy music. While most of the songs are sensual, they also cradle a domestic ideal that Legend clearly can’t wait to experience. The singer is finally letting go of that “boys will be boys” macho sensibility and starting to dream for himself, for a new life, and a new love.
This program aired on September 25, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.