Music News

Soul singer John Legend says soul "has always been there"

When John Legend first came to Denver — with Kanye West, in 2004 — he was a fresh face with a healthy buzz and tons of talent. Even then, you could tell he was going places. And this was before he and will.i.am crafted the smash single "Ordinary People," before he won three Grammys, before his songs were featured in Target ads, and well before Barack Obama asked Legend to contribute a song for his inauguration.

Legend returns to the Mile High City this week with Sade, another artist with considerable talent, who, like Legend, won a Grammy for her first album and never looked back. In an era rife with celebrity scandals and tragedies, and pop stars who aren't artists, it makes perfect sense that these kindred spirits are touring together when soul music looks to be coming back. We spoke with Legend recently about the resurgence of soul. (Visit backbeatblog.com for the full interview.)

Westword: We're kind of in the midst of a soul renaissance right now, with bands like the Weeknd and Adele — and even Drake threatening to make an all-singing album. Do you feel like soul music has come back around?

John Legend: I think it's always been there. I just think that, you know, there are times when the radio plays it more than others. There have always been artists out there making soul music and carrying the torch for soul music, but you just have to have the right artists at the right time making the right songs for it to bubble up and stand out.

Honestly, with Adele making what will probably be the best-selling album of the year, that certainly has made soulful artists more high-profile — or her brand of soulful music more high-profile — but that doesn't mean that every soulful artist benefits from that. I think you still, as an individual artist, have to go out there and make the best music you can and do something that's gonna make you stand out.

That's what Adele did, and that's what other successful soul artists like Alicia, and myself, and Amy Winehouse and others that have been successful at it do. I don't think it's all about "Oh, now I wanna listen to soul music." I think it's about "Oh, this artist is great, and this is a great song, and this is exciting." 

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Shawn White