John Legend: Evolver

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John Legend: <em>Evolver</em>
Future LegendEvolverGet Lifted

Legendary Flop
By Matt Fink

On his third full-length, the charisma that launched Legend’s career fails to grease the gears of a scattered and lethargic song cycle, one where he shuffles through various shades of adult contemporary and is repeatedly upstaged by high-profile guest appearances. Take first single “Green Light,” a clumsy mélange of vintage synthesizers, popping beats and half-hearted seductions that wastes a perfectly absurd cameo by André 3000 and manages to make casual sex sound about as salacious as sitting in traffic. Or listen to him sleepwalk through “It’s Over,” dragging down Pharrell’s funky production touches and Kanye West’s spirited ?verses. There are sad-sack breakup ballads (“This Time”), What’s Going On-aping misfires (“Take Me Away”) and bland soft-rock crooners (“Cross the Line”), and Legend doesn’t seem particularly invested in any of them. Unlike the great soul singers, his vocal performances suggest that he’s role-playing more than feeling it. Worst of all is the cloying “If You’re Out There,” a “We Are the World”-style anthem that manages to squeeze the worst of the anti-war, anti-hate, up-with-people clichés into one sweeping four-minute power-ballad disaster. Unlike the rest of the album’s easily forgotten flubs, this one’s likely to plague us during feel-good flicks and campaign rallies for decades to come.