Album Review: John Legend and The Roots – Wake Up!

Wake Up! by John Legend and The Roots

This seems like the most obvious collaboration ever. How did it not happen earlier? Did it? I don’t know. Either way, this seems like the type of record that both John and the Roots were born to make. “Wake Up!” plays like a 12 song version of that one song by Aloe Blacc that everyone (including myself) loves. Basically it’s a lot of super old school R&B/Soul that’s focused around social issues. The opener “Hard Times” is killer. The beat is off the chart and Black Thought destroys his verse. It’s a track that means serious business. “Compared to What” is the type of song that proves that John Legend can front any band, anywhere, anytime, any genre. Hearing the chorus: “Tryiinnn to make it reeaaaalll!” belted over some seriously funky horns is really as good as it gets.

Kind of worry though that “Wake Up!” fringes on becoming really sappy on more than one occasion. It might be kind of hard not to with this type of music. The song “Wake Up Everybody” is quite frankly one of the corniest things that I have ever heard. It sounds like one of those songs that every known pop star on the planet joins together to make to raise money for starving kids / natural disaster relief or something. Either that or like the type of music that plays during the credits of some made for TV movie on the PAX network. The cover of Bill Withers “I Can’t Write Left Handed” walks that fine line between the two extremes. I think that John Legend is the only artist out there today that can even consider pulling off the songs spoken introduction. Overall though, the greatest crime on this album is that it didn’t include the collaborations cover of “Wake Up” by Arcade Fire.

Wake Up! – 3.5 out of 5


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