Sunday morning in Las Vegas, as well as the bleary gamblers crowding the lobby on the MGM Grand hotel-casino-theatre complex wouldn’t have bet within the John Legend success story. Ten years after signing an increasing deal, the R&B singer-songwriter is experiencing and enjoying the biggest record of his career, along with the most ubiquitous transatlantic hit since Pharrell’s “Happy”.
When we meet in mid-May, Legend’s “All of Me” – the 3rd release from his fourth album, Love within the Future – is No one inch the Billboard Hot 100, having dislodged “Happy” after ten weeks at the pinnacle. In the UK it reached No 2 at the beginning of April; during writing, it’s still from the Top 10.
Yet while he’s a nine-time Grammy-winner, Legend’s album sales ended up being declining, and neither on the previous singles from Love inside the Future cracked the American Hot 100. Nonetheless, it is really an old-fashioned smash: the piano ballad steadily climbed the charts over here as well as over there, without splashy fanfare or hype. In the UK, “All of Me” has been around the charts for 19 weeks; from the US, 31 weeks.
The 35-year-old from Ohio is Las Vegas to experiment with at the Billboard Music Awards, alongside such big-hitters as Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry and Lorde. But curiously, he’s not nominated.
“‘All of Me’ wasn’t really big enough with the time in the event the awards were calculated,” Legend says, without reproach, once we sit down in the empty guest room inside hotel. “It was ahead of time for me, I guess. But I guess it’s wise for Billboard to achieve the current No 1 single within the show.”
A quiet, mellow and methodical man, Legend ticks from the song’s achievements. On the Hot 100, it’s the initial R&B ballad to top the charts in 18 years, since Mariah Carey’s ‘Always Be My Baby’. “But in terms of piano-and-vocal singles, there’s only lots of people three of these – this, Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ and Bruno Mars’ ‘When I Was Your Man’.
“The biggest thing for that song was my Grammy performance,” he states of his spellbinding rendition on the song at January’s televised awards ceremony in Los Angeles. “It took it from this point to there.” He smiles. “You can never predict what’s gonna propel these products.”
Legend was gone to live in co-write “All of Me” with songwriter Toby Gad (Beyoncé’s “If I Were a Boy”) after receiving an e-mail from one of his managers. “She’s a classic friend of mine and she or he said I should write a song using a similar message as Billy Joel’s ‘She’s Always a Woman’. She knew my relationship with my then-future wife, so she thought I should write a song this way to Chrissy.”
Chrissy is Chrissy Teigen, a model who Legend met about the set with the video for his 2007 single “Stereo”. They were married not too long ago, plus the video for “All of Me” – featuring Legend and Teigen rolling around intimately – incorporates footage from other Lake Como ceremony. Like the matchmaking clip for “Stereo”, it turned out directed by Nabil Elderkin. A perfect matrimonial circle, or band of gold, in each and every sense. Little wonder that “All of Me” has already been a wedding standard and piano-bar fixture. Indeed, the pianist around my hotel was playing it the evening before I left to meet up with Legend.
Love inside the Future was launched last August. Factoring in their bonus tracks, it’s a towering, 20-track monument for the songwriterly craft of contemporary R&B, melding the vintage feel of Donny Hathaway using the cutting-edge sonic nous of executive producer Kanye West. But still, there were no room for “Trouble”.
I heard the song last January inside the London studio of producer Paul Epworth. He’d been utilizing Legend using a few songs – one of those, “Who Did That to You”, would end up around the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. “Trouble” would be a terrific soul stomper, the tale of your man who turns to crime to give his family. It sounded as being a hard-boiled sequel to Aloe Blacc’s “I Need a Dollar”. But Epworth declared the song’s inclusion inside tracklisting was nixed by West. It didn’t fit, seemingly.
Legend confirms the storyline.
“There was obviously a bit of the disconnect. And I agreed with this. ‘Trouble’ just needs the best musical setting, because doing so didn’t fit Love from the Future in any way. But I love the song, and I will said out. It reminds me a little bit of ‘Hard Times’,” he states of his cover on the Curtis Mayfield composition. It was the lead track on Wake Up! (2010), the Grammy-winning album of agit-soul classics how the rigorously politically-engaged Legend made out of The Roots.
West and Legend are old friends and peers. What do people get wrong in regards to the temperamental rapper and fashion-plate? Legend provides question some thought before answering.
“Well, I mean, he states what according to him,” that is one way of describing West’s penchant for that provocative plus the egomaniacal. “And obviously all of these things according to him are impolite. Or, things which people aren’t use to hearing individuals who care about their image saying!” Legend laughs. “But I’ve seen all sides of him: I know how generous they can be, how passionate he could be about art and creativity, and ways in which much he truly loves making music and designing clothes and making ideas.
“People see negativity received from him sometimes, but what I see is his real love for art and music. And that makes him one on the most important and prolific and artistic artists we have inside business.”
Legend has his or her own full slate. He’s from the midst of an huge American tour of smaller cities and towns, having a conversational, Evening with John Legend-style show to theatres. He’ll be bringing that towards the UK in autumn, although not before doing another American tour – the achievements “All of Me” has necessitated a summer run of amphitheatres.
He’s active within the film world, too. Having curated a soundtrack for 12 Years a Slave, Legend’s Get Lifted Film Co. are producing two movies: a “Flashdance-type” project called Breaking Through, and The Black Count. The latter, for being directed by Cary Fukunaga (HBO’s True Detective), tells the story of Alexander Dumas’s father. “He was the highest-ranking military officer in Europe who has been black – ever. He was the child of your Haitian slave, and became a general in Napoleon’s army.”
But more immediately, John Legend is riding the wave of “All of Me”. If proof were needed on the song’s cultural impact, weekly after we meet Legend was in Florence for the gossip mags – plus the betrothed – can have us believe may be the Wedding from the Century: the nuptials of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. And, naturally, Legend performs “All of Me” to the happy couple.
It’s another “moment” to the song. While Legend is well-known for some time, in Las Vegas he admits for me that “All of Me” has gotten his fame to an alternative level.
“This is the very first song I’ve had that’s truly been a large crossover hit,” Legend says appreciatively. “It’s just exposed me to fans who don’t focus on R&B radio.” He pauses and smiles again. “Frankly, more white people!”