John Legend and the Roots: Wake Up!

I am not a big fan of R&B. Don’t get me wrong, lots of the singers are excellent. I just dislike that so many of the singles are about sex. I feel that Rhythm and Blues can be so much more. That’s why I’m a huge fan of John Legend as well as The Roots.

“Wake Up!” inspired by the 2008 presidential election, is a collection of cover songs performed by John Legend and The Roots. Originally written during the ?s or ?s, the songs feature updated elements of gospel, reggae, and hip-hop. Due to their age, some may not immediately appeal to you. For me, “Humanity (Love the Way It Should Be)” and “Wholy Holy” were not my taste. But after listening a few times, they began to grow on me to the point that I sang along.

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What I particularly liked about “Wake Up” was how the different styles mixed together.

“Hard Times” is a gritty, fast-paced song symbolized by the lyrics “Cold, cold eyes upon me they stare/ People all around me and they’re all in fear/ They don’t seem to want me but they won’t admit/ I must be some kind of creature up here having fits.”

“Little Ghetto Boy” is the kind of song that makes you stop and listen, losing yourself in the lyrics soulfully delivered by The Roots’ lead MC, Black Thought, and John Legend.

My favorite by far is “I Can’t Write Left-Handed.” It starts with John Legend providing some background information. Originally performed by Bill Withers, the singer takes on the role of a Vietnam soldier. He laments his place in the war, a war he has no influence over. This new version has the soulful, heart-wrenching feel of the original, but adds Legend’s signature voice and The Roots’ excellent instrumentals.

Having John Legend and The Roots on one album is a treat. They show listeners what R&B can and should be: a genre that touches your heart not only with music about passionate love, but also music that makes you understand the artist’s feelings about life in general.

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