Album Review: Darkness and Light – John Legend

Clear. Pure. Soulful.

These are the three essential words to describe a John Legend album. He writes legendary songs. He sings like a living legend. Question now is, what makes his new album special?


For the first time in 2014, I bought a John Legend CD. It’s Love in The Future. It’s his fourth “love diary” album with his most successful record to date – All of Me. His fifth album, Darkness and Light, still contains his sound signature but its overall substance evolves into something more mature.

Before the track-by-track review, let me share to you a 30-minute insightful conversation with Blake Wills (album’s producer) and the legend himself.

Track 1: I Know Better

The album opens with a powerful track about retrospection. John looks back and reviews how he travels life. He admits his mistakes but no one stops him from being confident and resilient.

5 of 5 stars!

Track 2: Penthouse Floor

This is my instant favorite.  It’s groovy. It’s smooth. It’s sexy.

Penthouse Floor is one of those songs that gets you. It has its own signature. It has its own brand. It’s felt than seen.

Thanks to Chance The Rapper for adding spices to this masterpiece. Somehow, it reminds me of Green Light but this is way way more better (apologies for the redundancy).

In fact, this live performance makes me want to buy a penthouse to ride an elevator. Seriously though, it’s the first time I saw John performs without the piano. FUN-tastico!

5 of 5 stars!

Track 3: Darkness and Light

The album’s track title is a shocker. I’m not used to hearing him like this. It sounds experimental but when it starts to get on you, it crawls on you. Brittany Howard manages to add a kick, which makes the song a bit lighter and a bit darker.

3.5 of 5 stars!

Track 4: Overload

This is a classic soul from John Legend. With Miguel on the side, the becomes their comfort zone. It’s golden. It’s just becomes heavy loaded -a bit overloaded. Or maybe, it takes a while for me to love it.

3.5 of 5 stars!

Track 5: Love Me Now

This is the track that carries the entire album to the right direction. John sings it with conviction but with a sprinkle of vulnerability.

Never I expected the lead single would sound this way. It’s a love song but it’s far from predictable. John makes it a lot better without sacrificing the quality of his signature.

5 of 5 stars! 

Track 6: What You Do To Me

It’s one-hell-of-a-sex song but wait, it’s a classy one. Despite of all the love and hate, he’s enjoying the ride. As they say, sex is a journey.

4 of 5 stars!

Track 7: Surefire

The piping sound reminds me of Peter Pan when he’s calling his Lost boys. Though this song is best remembered for its smooth lyrics, which talks about the imperfection of a relationship.

Here’s his live performance. I prefer the studio version but this sounds differently awesome.

Goosebumps. 5 of 5 stars!

Track 8: Right By You

Sweet. This is his song for his baby daughter, Luna. The song is filled with questions, with anxiety, with wondering. In the end, it’s about fatherhood. John Legend sees the big picture.

4 of 5 stars!

Track 9: Temporarily Painless

This is my favorite. The first time I heard it, I notice a friendly pattern of sounds painlessly mixed with John’s pure vocals. His voice feels like he follows the sound like a maze.

5 of 5 stars!

Track 10: How Can I Blame You

This is one insightful song about life. It talks to you like a friend, convincing you to feel thankful with what you already have.

3.5 of 5 stars!

Track 11: Same Old Story

It’s a good story. Just old and repetitive. Yet, John puts a soulful spin to it and make it his own truth.

3 of 5 stars!

Track 12: Marching Into The Dark

John closes the album with layers of questions. What if, what if and more what ifs – maybe life is filled with what if, right? At times, we see light. At times, we see darkness. Perhaps, that’s the way life goes. It remains imperfect.

4 of 5 stars!

Overall Rating: 7.5 of 10 stars!

As expected, John Legend makes a good comeback with Darkness and Light. I’m waiting for him to push his sound signature to another level but it seems he needs more preparations. Stream it now!

The album cover seems to summarize what the album is about. It reveals John Legend gets there, still there, but not quite far to reach the pinnacle.

Photo Courtesy of: Rolling Stone

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