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Slow Burn: The birth of John Legend's first mainstream hit, "All of Me"

REVOLT TV

 // Sep 4, 2018

Artist // Instagram

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.


—by Antwane Folk

By definition, a charm (the good luck kind) is intended to bring someone good fortune and mere happenstance. Charms can come in many different forms. From a rabbit's foot and elephants to four-leaf clovers and grasshoppers, these talismans have believably been the source of wonderful perks for many individuals.

For John Legend, his wife and famed catalog model Chrissy Teigen can plausibly be noted as his lucky charm and the inspiration behind "All of Me," his biggest Hot 100 victory.

Of course, prior to that, the piano-playing artist had a large list of proud moments logged on his music vitae that spanned nearly 10 years long. Legend had experienced multi-platinum and platinum success with his first releases Get Lifted and Once Again. He'd toured across the nation with band Sade. He won a generous number of Grammys—a whopping nine, that is. Additionally, he had established himself as a global humanitarian who had his hands in several philanthropic endeavors. But there was one thing the crooner didn't have listed on his resume, and that was a seat at the Hot 100's No.1 table.

This chart-topping achievement soon became in Legend's reach after the release of Love in the Future, his fourth solo full-length album, in 2013. (The LP followed the singer's Grammy-winning collaborative effort, Wake Up!, with hip-hop band The Roots.) But the journey to happily-ever-after didn't launch that year for Legend. In fact, it started in the summer of 2007 on the set of his partially-animated and low-budget music video for "Stereo," Once Again's fourth single.

John Legend - Stereo (Video)
johnlegendVEVO

Teigen starred as his female companion. After the shoot, the pair decided to take their on-camera chemistry to Legend's hotel room to eat In-N-Out burgers and fool around.

Following their night of old-fashioned hamburgers and passion, Legend and Teigen parted ways as he prepared to leave for the European leg of his 'Once Again' tour.

Things between the two didn't become lovey-dovey, at least "not right away," Legend to Los Angeles Confidential. It took some time before the crooner swept Teigen off her feet. "I'm more cautious than that. I wasn't like, 'This is the woman I'm going to marry' from day one. For me, I'm the kind of person who needs to grow into that feeling."

Teigen had similar sentiments about their bleak future. "I left him by himself for a while," she revealed to Cosmopolitan in 2014. "The worst thing you can do is try to lock someone like that down early on, then have them think, 'there's so much more out there.' I played it cool for a long time. Never once did I ask, 'What are we?' Marriage was never my goal, because I've never been very traditional."

Soon, Teigen's hilarious nature and ability to keep Legend engaged in phone calls and through text messages drew him in closer. Before long, they were a legit couple. The lovebirds experienced their share of ups and downs for a beginning romance, including a one-day sabbatical which came from a place of uncertainty on Legend's part. But they worked it out, continued to date and, not too soon, they got engaged December 2011.

A year later, in 2012, after postponing his fall tour, Legend began working aggressively to complete, Love in the Future, the "best album of [his] career so far," according to The Hollywood Reporter with co-executive producers and G.O.O.D. Music boss Kanye West and frequent creative collaborator Dave Tozer.

After going radio silent for a few months, Legend awakened from his music repose in March and shared the first official single "Who Do We Think We Are" off his new album. "When was the last time we got to be 100 percent real, y'all? I don't want y'all holding back nothing," shouts Lenny Kravitz on the start the soulfully-sampled track, featuring rap heavyweight Rick Ross. Legend fits in on the smooth-talking tune by "being bold, being audacious, taking risks for love and also for life," as he told NPR.

In the lavish visual for "Who Do We Think We Are," a couple of Legend's elite friends—who happen to be trained ballroom dancers and partially-dressed women—gather for an evening of drinks to chit-chat about the glamorous life.

The joint effort didn't enter the Hot 100 and failed to gain strong radio airplay to chart higher on the main R&B/Hip-Hop charts. It did, however, earn Legend a Top 20 hit on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart.

Surely, the cold response of "Who Do We Think We Are" wasn't music to Legend's ears. The preceding year, he'd struck gold with Think Like a Man's "Tonight (Best You Ever Had)" featuring Ludacris. Legend took the single chart disappointment in stride but not before Love in the Future got a new release date. The album was pushed back from June 25 to September 3.

With a pending fall marriage to Teigen, Legend expounded more on the album that featured songwriting and production from Q-Tip, Pharrell Williams, Malay, 88-Keys, Da Internz, DJ Camper and Hit-Boy.

"Lyrically, the title kind of embraces where I'm heading in life, I'm about to get married," he explained to VIBE. "It's the beginning of something new, I'm optimistic about it, and you can hear that in the tone of the tracks. I wanted to make a really great modern soul album."

Ahead of Love in the Future's September arrival and his sophomore single "Made to Love," which followed in the same uncharted footsteps of Legend's previous single, he took one more stab at putting out an appealing recording for radio: "All of Me." Even though his pre-released singles didn't pan out successfully, the singer had a foreboding that his tender new solo was destined for chart greatness—maybe as huge as his Top 5 R&B hit "Ordinary People" off 2005's Get Lifted.

"I don't want to predict how big it will get, but it's in the same league," he said to Billboard in April 2013. But how could Legend cast his vote on the ballad's winning outcome that early into his album shift? His confidence in "All of Me" producing positive results came from the song's muse: Teigen. "There's a song on my album that actually could be pretty good for the wedding. It's called 'All of Me' and it's inspired by Chrissy. She loved the song and cried when she heard it," he said to PEOPLE.

While the sweet ballad was quietly storming urban adult contemporary radio and patiently waiting to bubble up on urban radio, and with Love in the Future in stores, Legend went out on his 22-date 'Made to Love Tour.'

As he sung his heart out on stage every night on the road, Legend put out an intimate black-and-white visual for "All of Me" starring his new wife. The public show of affection resonated with audiences and added to the growing success of the head-over-heels serenade.

After ending his tour in December and entering the new year with "All of Me" receiving generous radio airplay on urban and urban adult contemporary radio, things were finally looking up for Legend. He decided to capitalize on the single's increasing attention by performing the love song at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.

Dressed in a white suit and seated by his instrument of choice, Legend sung the romantic tune while his wife, Chrissy, watched on in the shadows of the audience. His performance left a winning imprint in the hearts of viewers. The following week, "All of Me" rose 22 spots to No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming his third Top 30 hit. Meanwhile, his album Love in the Future re-entered the top 40 on the Billboard 200.

"I told my label early on that this could be the biggest song of my career if we don't mess it up," said Legend to Billboard. Although Legend's opinion on the single's success kept the song going up the Hot 100, the 10-week domination of Pharrell's single "Happy" would end up blocking the ballad from reaching the summit for a total of six weeks.

But in May 2014, Legend's "All of Me" dethroned "Happy," and notched his first released track as a solo or featured artist to top the Hot 100. The song topped the chart for three consecutive weeks and earned Legend the award for taking the third-longest climb (30 weeks) to the No. 1 spot on the main singles chart. His uphill battle didn't go without chart-winning results though. Right after topping the overall U.S. singles chart, "All of Me" raced to the No.2 spot in the UK and reigned supreme at No.1 in several other countries including Australia, Canada, Ireland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

In 2015, the love song was dubbed the third best-selling song worldwide of 2014 with an admirable of 12.3 million units sold, which included traditional sales and streams. This feat noted Legend as the second black act behind Pharrell to end the year with the best global single sales.

Over the years, "All of Me" has accumulated several prestigious accolades and generous nominations including two Billboard Music Awards, a NAACP Award, a Soul Train Award, and a Grammy nod for a live version.

If love exists, "All of Me" will never die. The piano ballad has a permanent residency at wedding ceremonies and on playlists dedicated to bringing lovebirds closer together.

Speaking of love, Legend and Teigen have been going strong since their famous romance began in 2007. Whether exchanging hilarious comments on social media or beaming in joy about their love for one another in candid interviews, the two-time parents are relationship goals.

Even though Legend pledged in 2015 that the glory of "All of Me" goes to the Recording Academy, we beg to differ. Chrissy, the sole inheritor of the sweet ode, deserves all the credit for helping the ballad make a dent in the career of crooner. Honestly, the Grammys just put a stamp of approval for a wider audience to catch on to the song's slow burning success.

So, shout out to Chrissy Teigen for being everything Legend never thought he needed, especially the stimulus behind his first crossover hit. Earning one is difficult, and we're happy he has one to his credit. Even if it took him almost 10 years.


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