John Legend unapologetic for mixing art with politics | Inquirer Entertainment

John Legend unapologetic for mixing art with politics

By: - Reporter
/ 12:35 AM March 21, 2018

John Legend

John Legend doesn’t concern himself with trends. As a musician, he has always “stayed in my own lane”—sultry, soulful R&B tunes rendered with a baritone as smooth as butter. And he likes things that way.

Yes, there have been changes here and there, but the most discernible of which isn’t necessarily the music itself, but the message the songs carry.


For instance, John’s latest album, “Darkness and Light,” is perhaps his most political yet; a piece of work that seemingly fuses two sides of him—the decorated crooner and the everyday guy who doesn’t shy away from sharing his opinions.


In a time when artists are being told to stick to what they do for a living, the 39-year-old singer-songwriter refuses to. “I can’t help it. I will always write love songs—and about what’s happening in the world,” he told the Inquirer in an e-mail exchange arranged by Wilbros Live.

The multiawarded American singer, who’s responsible for such hits as “All of You,” “Ordinary People” and “Love Me Now,” will take the stage tonight, March 21, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, as part of the Asian leg of his ongoing world tour; call 911-5555.

In this interview, John further talks about his music, fatherhood and using his platform to talk about various political or social issues:

Your latest album, “Darkness and Light,” feels edgier than your previous ones. How has your music evolved through the years? Every album represents a different time in my life, different influences and collaborators.

This album was the first time I worked with producer Blake Mills. You can hear his influence in the choices we made.

You’re quite vocal about your views on social media. Do you ever worry about potentially alienating some fans who don’t agree with you? I have to be honest and comment about what’s happening in the world, especially in my home country. I pay attention to politics, because I believe it matters. I use my voice to discuss issues I’m passionate about.


Some musicians are wary of the idea of mixing art with politics. What are your thoughts about this? Some of my favorite artists weren’t afraid to use their platform to effect social change—people like Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Paul Robeson and Nina Simone.

Artists have an opportunity to use their platform for good. We might as well do it.

Do you think it’s possible to detest what an artist stands for, but still admire his or her work? It’s pretty hard to completely separate who the artist is from his or her work. So much of artists’ work comes from their soul. For me to truly love an artist, I have to respect who they are. But that doesn’t mean I have to agree with them on everything.

How has fatherhood changed you as a person and as an artist? Becoming a new father has been a joy and a learning experience for me. It has inspired my writing, and it has been a positive change in our lives. I have written songs about it. And it has altered my perspective and priorities.

Looking at the things that have been happening around us these days, are you worried about the kind of world your—or our—children will be growing up in? What keeps you hopeful? I’m concerned. I’m concerned about climate change, gun violence in America and our political priorities. I want a better world, not only for my daughter, but for other sons and daughters who don’t have the good fortune to grow up in the privileged circumstances my kids will.

People love seeing your funny social media interactions with your wife, Chrissy Teigen. Are you guys just as goofy in real life? We have a lot of fun together. Chrissy is naturally clever, funny and irreverent. I’m so lucky to be with her. She makes every day more fun and interesting.

How does it feel being cast as Jesus in the coming live concert production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”? What, for you, is the importance of getting a role that has been typically played by white actors? I’m so excited to play such an iconic role in such an iconic musical. I had been rehearsing before the Asian tour, and it was a lot of fun and a big challenge. I can’t wait to perform it live for everyone.

I know people are used to seeing Jesus played by a white actor, but I appreciate NBC making the bold choice to pick a diverse cast of talented performers for its production. The cast reflects the diversity of our country and the world.

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You have already won a lot of awards—Grammys, Tonys, an Oscar—and sold millions of albums. Is there anything else you want to achieve, career-wise? I want to continue pushing myself to be the best artist and creator I can be.

TAGS: Darkness and Light, John Legend, musician

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