There are many ways to define greatness, John Legend says, but there has to be attention to quality.
Question: Are there still opportunities to rebel against the pop music standard?
John Legend: If you go in with the assumption that no matter what you do, you want to make it great. Great can be defined in a lot of ways, but to me great means there’s a certain attention to quality and integrity; that I just won’t relax.
Like I won’t put out throwaway lyrics that I think are just going to make the rhyme work, or just fit against the beat. I want to say something cool. I want to say it clever. I want to say it in a clever way. I want to say it in a way that’s honest, and that is real, and that makes sense to me, and that I think will strike a chord with people. And if I don’t do that, if I don’t have the attention to quality, then I think I’ll sound like everybody else. If I don’t do different things when it comes to the production of the arrangement of the song that make it interesting, that throw little twists that you might not expect in the arrangement, if I don’t do those things, then I think I feel like I’ll sound like everybody else.
So while a lot of the process may be similar to other people’s process, I think I go that extra step to make it special that they may not have gone, because I really care about making it special. I really care about making something that’s going to stand the test of time; that’s going to stand out; that critics are going to love; that fans are going to love. I really care about that, and have that attention to quality that I don’t think every artist has. But I just couldn’t do it any other way.
Recorded on: Jan 29, 2008