John Legend has spent his career trying to live up to his iconic stage name and the “self-imposed pressure” that comes with it. “You can’t be a flop,” he tells Glamour. “You can’t be a one-hit wonder if you call yourself Legend, and I was calling myself that before I even had a record deal.”
But in the midst of his biggest year yet, Legend finally seems ready to declare himself worthy of the title. He describes the process of creating his eighth studio album as “connecting all the dots” of his career: a study of every song he’s written and every story he’s collected along the way. Now it’s all coming to fruition. In tandem with the release, he’s wrapping up his first Vegas residency—a two-hour show that spans his entire discography. Plus, he’s expecting another child with his wife (and former Glamour Woman of the Year) Chrissy Teigen.
“That period was the most prolific and productive period of my life,” he says. “I’ve never written this much music in this amount of time. We’re putting out 24 songs on this album, and I think we wrote probably more than 80, maybe 90, during 2021 and early 2022. Of course, part of that was due to the fact that I didn’t have a lot of other distractions because I wasn’t on the road and had time to really create, and so did many of my collaborators. We were cooped up in the studio, writing, creating, and Legend is what we came up with.”
Legend, the Grammy winner explains, is a double album thematically structured in two acts: Saturday night and Sunday morning. Act I is more physical and uptempo—the soundtrack to a night out. Act II, by contrast, is more introspective, spiritual, and intimate. To celebrate the release, John Legend took Glamour for a walk down memory lane, exploring the songs and stories, old and new, that led him here.
When I wrote “Ordinary People,” I didn’t know it was a hit, and the song took a journey before I finished writing it. Most of the songs I write, I write 95% of them in one session, but this one took some time because it started out as a Black Eyed Peas song.