John Legend Gives National Anthem Singing Tips, Working with Kanye West on New Album

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HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 17: Singer John Legend perform the national anthem before the 2013 NBA All-Star game at the Toyota Center on February 17, 2013 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Backstage at the 2013 NBA All-Star game, Legend hipped Billboard to how singers can nail the national anthem and spoke a bit about his forthcoming, Kanye West-assisted album.

On Sunday (Feb. 17) John Legend sang the “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the NBA All-Star Game in Houston, continuing trend of top R&B singers performing the national anthem on huge stages. Alicia Keys sang a lengthy version of it at the Super Bowl earlier this month, while (albeit with a bit of hullabaloo) Beyonce knocked it out at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January.

“This is probably one of the most high profile years for controversy and for virtuosity,” Legend said backstage to Billboard before he sang in Houston’s Toyota Center, where the All-Star game was held.

“It’s just something that is part of the cannon of songs that, if you are a singer, you should be able to nail,” Legend added. “It’s almost like a demonstration of ability. It takes some ability to do it right. It takes some range and it takes some skill. It’s not an easy song.” That said, Legend provided some tips for how to sing it well from the jump.

“Start low enough,” he cautioned. “Because you have to take it high by the end. You’re going to start slightly lower than what’s comfortable for you because you have to get so high by the end and if you start right in the heart of your range, it’ll get too high by the end. So the biggest key is starting low enough. So I have my little pitch pipe on my iPhone to make sure I start off in the right range.”

Later this year John will release his fourth solo album, “Love in the Future," targeting June as its drop date.

“We’re basically done with it,” Legend said. “Kanye [West] produced it with me, the same core team we’ve had since [my debut album] “Get Lifted.”

Kanye West lately hasn’t been a producer in the sense of making music from scratch. On “Cruel Summer,” his 2012 album G.O.O.D. Music record label’s compilation album that he executive produced, he opted to be more of an editor to productions provided by others. The same goes for how he’s assisting John on “Future.”

“He doesn’t actually make beats anymore,” Legend said of Kanye. “That’s what he’s been doing on my album, kind of supervising and getting younger producers to kind of craft the sound. We oversee it together. It’s been great working with Kanye, because I think he has a great ear and he pushes me in the right direction and that’s been good for the project.”