If you've listened to Top 40 radio or flipped through the video channels during the past few years, odds are pretty good you know something about John Legend. He played piano on Lauryn Hill's "Everything Is Everything" and might as well be considered Kanye West's sidekick, having assisted the producer and MC on several sessions — Jay-Z's "Encore" and Slum Village's "Selfish" being two of the more prominent 2004 singles featuring his work. A former choir director, he has also released a handful of energetic live discs, some of which are credited to his less hubristic birth name, John Stephens. And though he claims "I've got something new," you've also heard substantial chunks of Get Lifted in records made decades ago by Sly & the Family Stone, Curtis Mayfield, Quincy Jones, and Bill Withers. This might not be a problem for listeners who crave anything that recalls the music they first heard in their youth, but Legend's over-reliance upon his inspirations is an impediment as much as a slick way to grab attention. That's because he has more than enough talent and charm to get by on his own. His own lyrics and hooks are unique and clever enough to get the point across that he's no everyday R&B artist and, just as importantly, he has a personable and instantly fetching voice you could listen to all day long. However, the association with West — whose Sony-distributed boutique label released the record — is very helpful. Without it, Legend would likely be zoned into neo-soul (2003's Live at SOB's New York City really makes this notion apparent), thereby standing little chance of reaching the ears of anyone younger than 30. The production work supporting his songs strikes a fine balance between soul and hip-hop, allowing him to appeal to those who are coming from either angle. This is a very good record. It's a given that Legend is destined to make at least two others that top it.
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