John Legend Get Lifted

[Columbia/Getting Out Our Dreams; 2004]

Styles: r&b, neo-soul
Others: Maxwell, D’Angelo

Okay, this is the last straw. I have had enough of Kanye friggin' West. In the beginning, having been a fan of Kanye for better than a year before College Dropout, I was excited to see people start to notice the little producer that could. I was so excited, in fact, that I ignored the Cosby sweaters, disregarded the often terrible flow, and overlooked his use of a near fatal accident as an attention grabbing tool (seriously, Dizzee Rascal got stabbed 5 times, 50 Cent has been shot something like 5 million times, and neither of them play that for sympathy like Kanye and his jaw). But a freaking vanity label!?!? C'mon, leave that shit to Korn! (Anybody remember Orgy? No? Good.) Get Lifted is the first release on the Getting Out Our Dreams imprint, and is as likely to be remembered as the conceit that got everyone sick of Kanye as it is for anything else.

Something of a concept album, Get Lifted offers little more than a straightforward love story: Boy gets sick of Girl A, Boy coaxes Girl B into an affair, Boy repents and makes it up to Girl A, Boy becomes a big musical success, etc. Along the way, Kanye references discussions with his penis, and Snoop Dogg takes time out from pimping everything in the universe to tell his special lady that he can change for her.

As for the songs themselves, I can only say that John Legend (aka John Stephens) is half way to becoming a neo-soul icon. He possesses a voice like Stevie Wonder, powerful and smooth. Unfortunately, he's got lyrics like Stevie Pawlowski, poet laureate of Mrs. Tomasiewicz's, my 9th grade creative writing class teacher. Almost no R&B cliché beneath him, Legend promises on "Let's Get Lifted" to "get you high" and "blow your mind." On "Ordinary People," Legend warns "Maybe we'll live and learn/ Maybe we'll crash and burn." By-the-numbers production help from Kanye and does not help matters, and only on "Refuge (When It's Cold Outside)" does the groove transcend the aforementioned flaws.

In short, there is no justification for this album's existence on a major label. There is nothing John Legend does that isn't being done better by dozens of artists whose only failing is that Kanye doesn't know about them. Although, if the prize for Kanye knowing about you is Kanye putting his stamp on your music, then perhaps it is not much of a failing after all...

1. Prelude
2. Let's Get Lifted
3. Used To Love U
4. Alright
5. She Don't Have To Know
6. Number One - (with Kanye West)
7. I Can Change - (with Snoop Dogg)
8. Ordinary People
9. Stay With You
10. Let's Get Lifted Again
11. So High
12. Refuge (When It's Cold Outside)
13. It Don't Have To Change - (with The Stephens Family)
14. Live It Up - (with Miri Ben-Ari)

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