Get Lifted

Get Lifted

Already a studio session vocalist, keyboardist, and songwriter for high-profile artists (Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill, Janet Jackson), John Legend, né John Stephens, had worked out a large chunk of the musical puzzle for himself before his studio debut, Get Lifted, appeared. Following a brief stint working at a management consulting firm after college, the Ohio native joined Common as one of the very first artists signed to G.O.O.D. Music, the then-fledgling imprint of Kanye West—whose cousin (“Diamonds Are Forever” producer Devo Springsteen) was Legend’s roommate at the University of Pennsylvania. Pulling both hip-hop-centered beats and Legend’s piano to the foreground, Get Lifted benefits from strong vocal arrangements (Legend was a former church choir director), reimagined classic soul samples (The Staple Singers’ “Let’s Do It Again” on “Number One,” Sly & The Family Stone’s “Just Like a Baby” on “She Don’t Have to Know”), and a canny mix of guests (Snoop Dogg, West, Hill) that never steals focus from the star. Standout hit “Ordinary People” features him alone at a piano counting the ways partners disappoint each other, but he uncovers new reasons to be hopeful in the end, singing, “This time we’ll take it slow.” The song’s sparse, crooner-esque voice-and-piano arrangement and romantic subject matter presaged "All of Me," the biggest hit of Legend’s career, released nine years later.

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