John Legend’s debut CD, 2004’s Get Lifted, proved he’s no ordinary gospel-trained R&B singer-songwriter. Two years later, he demonstrated a cosmopolitan flair for romance with his follow-up disc, Once Again. Now the 29-year-old Ohio native is preparing to expose his carnal desires on his as-yet-untitled third studio album. ”That’s oversimplifying it a bit,” Legend says to EW in an Atlanta recording studio. ”But if you were to have headlines from each album, you could say that.” Though it’s awaiting contributions from Kanye West (”We don’t spend a lot of time around each other, but there’s still that creative collaboration,” Legend says) and an undetermined reggae artist, the album is almost complete. No firm release date has been set, but Legend expects it’ll drop in July or September. ”I wanna get it out before the Grammy deadline at the end of September,” he says while giving us an exclusive preview of some tracks. Clearly, he smells a winner.
His breathy vocals evoke a mix of Sting and Seal on this romantic groove produced by will.i.am. ”It’s the first song I did for the new album,” Legend says. ”I told will I wanted to do something synthy and driving, taking the best elements of the ’80s but making it current.”
A flirtatious cameo by André 3000 — and irresistible, booty-shakin’ production by newcomers Malay and KP — has made this suggestive come-on a strong first-single contender. ”André’s verse is flawless. He nailed the sentiment of the song, put the right amount of his mojo on it. I feel like he’s making his rhyming comeback.”
‘THE ONLY ONE”
Legend instantly fell in love with the jagged and abstract keyboard arrangement of this seductive track, produced by Rich Harrison (Beyoncé, Amerie). ”It’s about a girl who’s basically single, but she’s seeing different people. And I’m putting in my bid to be her man — not a competitor for being her man, but her man.”
Ne-Yo co-wrote this hip-hop soul jam, which features layered vocals, a funky drumbeat, and a plunking keyboard riff. ”I think Ne-Yo’s one of the best songwriters out right now, and I’m not too proud to collaborate with somebody else that’s really good. I’m trying to make the best album I can make. I’ve written great songs before, and I wrote great songs for this album. So I don’t have to prove to anybody that I have to write every single lyric that I sing.”