John Legend – U Move, I Move (feat. Jhené Aiko)

This track from John Legend’s new record Bigger Love is pure magic.

I’ve been a John Legend fan for a looong time now. Hiding somewhere in my CD collection is an early demo, copied for me by a friend whose own…cousin? friend?…worked with Legend somehow and had access to early studio recordings and some live cuts of tracks that would form the backbone of his breakout 2004 record Get Lifted. Then, like now, his persona was magnetic, his musical talents were boundless, and his voice was immediately iconic.

If I’m being honest, though, I’ve drifted in-and-out of most of his ensuing albums. I tune out for the bulk of his saccharine, piano-backed-by-strings love song canon — which are most of his biggest hits AND constitute a lot of the vibe on Bigger Love. But, I tune in when he applies and layers that voice on top of more vibrant beats and toward richer lyrical content, like on 2016’s Darkness and Light.

All of that said, there is little resistance one can muster up when Legend connects on a track like he does on U Move, I Move — a string-soaked love song of the kind I just said “meh” to in the last paragraph. (Who am I, right?!)

The unique arrangement offers a more interesting, less traditional song structure than his go-to piano ballads. The production is great, seamlessly weaving lots of scratchy, jittery background drum and synth sounds into an otherwise smoothly flowing, almost liquid melody. The feel is intoxicatingly airy and atmospheric; there is so much damn space for Legend’s voice to croon and soar and blend with Jhené Aiko’s. Their voices are sublime together.

I loved this track on first listen. But, it took me a few more listens to accept the pause it provides in the midst of everything raging right now. And, to remember that there is always a need to be moved by beauty. Not just love or hope or positivity (all things Legend sought to emote with this record), but beauty. To ache at the feeling of it even, and especially, when confronted with so much that is ugly. I love this track for giving me that reminder.

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