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John Legend November 29 2006

Once Again

John Legend's music evokes classic soul. His debut Get Lifted relied heavily on interpolations from numbers such as the Staple Singers' "Let's Do It Again." Once Again is subtler, but still draws from secondhand sources: "Each Day Gets Better" sounds like Billy Joel's "Leave a Tender Moment Alone," and "Slow Dance" like Billy Stewart's "I Do Love You." One could argue that Legend's songwriting reflects a hip-hop era that prizes obvious homage. Like so many modern artists, he attempts timelessness through mimicry; it wouldn't matter if it resulted in a stronger collection of material. Get Lifted had "Ordinary People," "Used to Love U" and "I Can Change." Once Again only has "Save Room," a sly number that leans on Legend's Manilow-like showmanship. Much of the disc is built on looping and bland melodies. Though serviceable, it's redundant and lacks a distinctive personality. Legend's chief ally is the future — who can predict Once Again's reputation in years to come? 3 stars.

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John Legend plays the Tabernacle Thurs., Nov. 30 with Robin Thicke.