Music Revolution 2010: John Legend “Dreams” are Reality
In the current state of uncertainty in our communities, music is more important as an escape route from the cobblestone streets of hardship than ever before. With that in mind, a music fan who attends a concert of a popular artist – whether the current sensation or a proven veteran – is counting on hearing the tried and true hit records and is less receptive to those who try to “plug” their latest single, especially since today’s music business is geared towards hits rather than classics. It takes a special artist with a special song to turn the jeers to cheers when such an occurrence happens. That happened for me on Thursday, August 5th, 2010.
New York City is unrivaled in its free music festivals year ’round. Brooklyn, NY is the nerve center f0r such events every single summer, headquarters to MLK, Jr. and Seaside Concert Series, BAM’s annual Afro-Punk Festival, the International African Arts Fest and others. Last Thursday, during the weekly Seaside Series, Grammy winning artist John Legend returned to Brooklyn for the fourth time in three years – this was his third free appearance. On the humid evening at Aser Levy Park near Brighton Beach and in the shadow of the New York Aquarium, Legend wowed the crowd with his award-winning singles, such as “Green Light,” “PDA (We Just Don’t Care),” “Heaven” and “Ordinary People.” Somewhere halfway through the performance, the lights went down and the crowd of 10,000 plus were left alone with the singer and his Steinway. “This is a new song I wrote just a few weeks ago,” the singer explained. “This is called ‘Dreams.'” I looked around, anticipating rolling eyes, groans and people leaving, but his echo-inducing tenor controlled the audience’s attention, and the major chords and lyrics of longing did the rest: “If I dream, dream, dream/it just might be the only time that I’m with you.” I know many of Legend’s songs by heart, but that was the only one of his songs I was singing as I took the Q-train home.
The radio is saturated with songs with little to no poignancy, and the repeated play of the same 200 songs has caused the public to rely less on today’s mainstream music for emotional and intellectual nourishment. For an artist as popular as Legend to offer soulful, meaningful compositions to his fans, it sounds off a decree that it’s not only the indie artists like Sharon Jones, Aloe Blacc and so forth, who are capable of such quality. And as we await the release of Wake Up, Legend’s collaboration with The Roots, the radio will be re-introduced to songs of an era when fame and responsibility come hand in hand. And if I never hear that song on the radio, even time I smell the aroma of the cool waters of the Coney Island shore, I’ll be reminded that pop stars are still able – and willing – to create truly beautiful music to the masses. It’s no longer just a “dream, dream, dream.”