DAR Music: John Legend's Get Lifted

By @TrueGodImmortal

1. Prelude
2. Let's Get Lifted
3. Used To Love U
4. Alright
5. She Don't Have To Know
6. Number One 
7. I Can Change
8. Ordinary People
9. Stay With You
10. Let's Get Lifted Again
11. So High 
12. Refuge (When It's Cold Outside)
13. It Don't Have To Change
14. Live It Up 

Perhaps you haven't caught on yet, but what we've been doing recently is a series on R&B/Soul albums of the 2000s. This is essentially our top 25 R&B albums of the 2000s series, as we discuss and chronicle the 25 best albums, in no particular order. We already discussed The Diary of Alicia Keys and Voodoo from D'Angelo, so today we're taking a look at the debut album from one of the more important singers of the 2000s, John Legend and his classic debut Get Lifted.

Get Lifted is an album that truthfully crept up on us as fans, I believe. John was known for his appearances on Kanye West's College Dropout album, and his voice instantly sounded like the church to me. You could tell by his vocal runs and his knack for carrying certain notes that his singing was rooted in the church, and it was on full display in this album. Get Lifted is a mix of optimism, sensuality, honesty, raw emotion, and remains to be the best overall album from John (though I'd say his Love In the Future album is extremely close, as is Once Again). From the moment this album begins, you feel a welcoming sense in the intro, as John begins the song with "Come on and go with me... there's something new... for you to see...", and the intro kicks off into the first song "Let's Get Lifted". The song is a solid opener and the first verse is a true introduction to what John sought out to bring in the game:

"I've got something new for you/
When it gets you won't know what to do/
Relax, let me move you/
Dont resist it's in the air....
Just one taste will take u there...
Let it....flow right...through you/
I know you're getting tired of the same ole thing/
Imma break the rules gonna change the game/
You'll be...screaming..... my name/
And Imma take you places you never seen/
You couldn't picture this in your wildest dreams/
Don't fear... you're here.... with me/"

The chorus on this song is truly infectious, and as we move along to the first official single of the album "Used to Love U", we are treated to a glorious sound bed from Kanye, who handles the production and the layering vocals from Legend make it sound like he's accompanied by a choir. The song speaks to an ex, or a woman who John is falling out of love with, a relatable topic if you've ever been in a relationship that is reaching the end. John has a way of capturing the emotion of a man going through things without being too soft or too aggressive, and this song works well, despite some of the lyrics (the Whitney and Bobby reference particularly) being a tad cheesy here. Picking up the pace a bit, John goes from losing love to an attempt at suave and cool on the following track and it actually works well.

"Alright" is a solid attempt at John talking a little bit of shit, and when you consider this was released almost 12 years ago now, you'll appreciate the lyrics more. One of the best songs on the album follows, as "She Don't Have to Know" charters different territory from the rest of the album. John creates a tale about cheating and speaks directly to his lover on the side, dealing with the guilt that comes with it, but still not willing to let it go. He and his secret lover go on dates through a different part of town, going so far to wear shades and disguises nearly to hide and not risk getting caught. In essence, it's a look into the mind of someone who cheats, feels guilt, but not enough to stop and can also be seen as careless, if you listen to the lyrics. It's a great song however, and one that shows more depth to Legend and his writing.

Kanye was known for his soul samples during this era and he provides John with a nice soft soul production on "Number One", and even brings a verse in to help put it over the top. The song is an entertaining listen, and flows perfectly in succession with the album, as it follows "She Don't Have To Know", and is essentially the apology for it. John begs his woman not to leave him because he can be faithful or at least learn to be faithful. After his woman finds out about his infidelity, this is the plea. It's a bit of a dismissive plea in honesty, but the song itself is great. The whole album is rooted in a story it almost feels like, and it continues in the next song as well.

Allow me to tie things into the story that seems to be building: John and his woman meet, they get "lifted", and enjoy each other until something changes and he no longer feels the love for her. This leads to "Alright", which could be perceived as the song that leads into the tale on "She Don't Have to Know", while "Number One" is the song that captures his feelings after he got cheating. In the cohesion of this story, the Snoop Dogg assisted "I Can Change" would bring an end to the story, as John makes his final plea to the woman he loves or to any woman in general that he can change and not be the man he once was. There's depth behind the lyrics in each of these songs when you begin to tie them together honestly and it makes more sense now than it did to me 12 years ago (age and maturity are priceless).

If the story ends after "I Can Change", then there's some sort of realization that hits John midway through the album, as the second single "Ordinary People" follows. In many ways, this is John reflecting on his mistakes and love in general after his story ends. The lyrics tell a true story, and Will I.Am should be credited for writing what many feel is a beautiful song:

"Girl I'm in love with you...
But, this ain't the honeymoon...
We're past the infatuation phase/
Right in the thick of love...
At times we get sick of love...
It seems like we argue everyday/" 

This then leads into the bridge, that seemingly hints at this being the aftermath of his story in the first half of the album:

"I know I misbehaved/
And you made your mistakes/
And we both still got room left to grow/
And though love sometimes hurts/
I still put you first/
And we'll make this thing work/
But I think we should take it slow.../"

This song is truly amazing, and when you break down the lyrics, it's the most honest depiction of love, referencing being beyond the honeymoon phase, growing too quickly or growing apart, and the need to take it slow. Love is nothing to rush and John drives that point home. At the end of the day, we're all human and have our own complexities. The next song, "Stay With You", feels like the morning after the big conversation and honest moment in "Ordinary People", where John affirms his devotion to his lady. There's a very breezy soul vibe to this track and once again the layering vocals makes it reminiscent of the church, in my opinion. I'd rank this song as a top 5 song on this entire album and it's beautifully sung and composed.

The interlude so to speak, "Let's Get Lifted Again", showcases John smoothly coasting over the production, before leading into my favorite song on this album "So High". I think what grabbed me the most about this album is the sound. It didn't sound like the R&B that was out, it had a more contemporary feel to it, and this song surely was the epitome of that feel. Backed by mostly a piano and a slight drum pattern, John sings to the love of his life, telling her his feelings and how vital she has been to him. The lyrics are intricate in the first verse:

"Baby since the day you came into my life/
You made me realize that we were born to fly/
You showed me everyday new possibilities/
You proved my fantasies of love could really be/"

The bridge leading into hook also tells a story of its own:

"Let's go to a place only lovers go/
To a spot that we've never known/
To the top of the clouds..
We're floating...away yeah...
Ooh this feels so crazy/
Oh this love is blazing/
Baby we're so high/
Walking on cloud 9/"

The lyrics here and what drive the song, as the production allows for you to just sit back and listen to what he's saying. My favorite part of the song honestly comes when John starts to hit more and more notes towards the very end, including that one big note right within the final seconds. John became infamous for hitting those notes during this album, and this was the best one of them all. Continuing from his appreciation of his love, he follows this up with "Refuge(When It's Cold Outside), a song that allows John to provide more comfort and a form of reassurance to the lady in his life. If the story that is seemingly within this album is accurate, John has met the lady of his dreams(perhaps this is "Let's Get Lifted"), fell in love and out of love("Used to Love U"), became tempted("Alright"), made a mistake in cheating("She Don't Have to Know"), got caught and attempted to apologize("Number One"), and reaffirm that he can change from this("I Can Change"). After making his intentions known to change, reality sets in and he realizes the road to making this work is never easy ("Ordinary People"), but he will truly try his hardest and stick by his woman's side ("Stay With You"). He attempts to capture the glory of their love ("Let's Get Lifted Again), before realizing that nothing in this world could make him feel the way she does ("So High", "Refuge"). If this story or narrative was not done purposefully by John, then it only adds to the greatness of this album, because the narrative is 100% there.

As the album winds down, he and his family break from the story to create "It Don't Have To Change", discussing how the family element has truly been different, but the love will always remain the same. It's a song to reminisce about the earlier days and wishing they could go back, but knowing that life grows family in their respective solo directions. Regardless of what direction the family and their lives go, the love never changes. It's a very nice song with all of John's family featured, something that truly is gospel and church influenced. The final song of this album is "Live It Up", and in many ways, it is the perfect ending to the story that I feel has been built. At the end of the album, after the peaks and valleys of love and relationships, the mistakes and issues, John just wants to enjoy his life and live it up with his lady. The song itself is extremely smooth and one of the more upbeat tracks here, and it ends the album off well, and closes out the narrative well. Love is beautiful, but it's not perfect, sometimes it's rough, sometimes it's painful, sometimes it's amazing, but it's vital and requires work between two humans with their own emotional complexity and insecurities. I think this album, when you look into it, truly drove this point and other points home, but most of all, it is a near flawless album of great music hands down.



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