Sitting on a fluffy blue couch in the New York offices of Columbia Records, John Legend is surrounded by walls displaying framed portraits of Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday.
Sitting on a fluffy blue couch in the New York offices of Columbia Records, John Legend is surrounded by walls displaying framed portraits of Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday. It's seemingly an appropriate setting for Legend, whose 2004 debut, "Get Lifted," was a collection of urban-tinged midtempo songs, and whose "Once Again" in 2006 featured '60s-inspired tracks with lush instrumentation.
But as he spoons out Celestial Seasonings tea from a small white cup, Legend, sporting a V-neck T-shirt, dark jeans and high-top sneakers, looks anything but retro. And the music on "Evolver," due this week, is anything but nostalgic.
"This album doesn't sound like me," Legend says. "The tempo is faster than I've done before. It will be different for people, because 'Evolver' has a bit more instrumentation than I've used before. But it's not like you won't recognize the artist -- it's still me."
Other "Evolver" tracks include "No Other Love," featuring Legend's Homeschool Records' artist Estelle (see story, page 26), in which Legend tries his hand at a midtempo reggae track about loyalty. "Cross the Line" opens with ticks from an 808 under Legend's smooth tenor just before a booming bass and squashed, fuzzy keys conclude the song. On the Pharrell Williams-produced "It's Over Now," featuring Kanye West, synthy keys run as Legend asks a woman to leave. On "This Time," Legend sings a cappella for a portion of the song and then utilizes only an acoustic piano and strings.