John-Roger Stephens, who is better known as John Legend, is the son of a seamstress and factory worker from Springfield, Ohio. While John was born into an unhappy marriage that resulted in a twelve-year separation, he was imbued with incredible talent and love for music.
His father was an amateur jazz drummer, and his mother sang in the church choir. Despite his troubled parentage John grew up to be an amiable young boy. Not to mention immensely bright and talented.
He started the piano at age four and was doing performances with the church choir by age seven. He was allowed to skip two grades and graduated high school at age fifteen as salutatorian of his class.
That same year he won a black history essay competition sponsored by McDonald’s. In this essay, he answered a prompt on how he was planning to make black history by saying that he would become a successful musician.
I wonder how he would have felt at the time, knowing that people would one day be compiling a list of the best John Legend songs of all time?
After being offered scholarships to multiple universities, including Harvard, he decided to attend the University of Pennsylvania. While at the university, he served as musical director of the co-ed jazz and pop a cappella group, The Counterparts.
The group’s recording of Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” features John on vocals and made it onto the 1998 Best of Collegiate A Cappella compilation album.
He also made his piano debut on a studio recording when Lauryn Hill asked him to play on her track “Everything Is Everything” for the album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Later, he graduated magnum cum laude with a bachelor’s in English with an emphasis on African-American Literature.
While working as a management consultant for the Boston Consulting Group, John got introduced to Kanye West by Devo Springsteen. John was asked to sing vocals on the hooks for some of West’s music and was subsequently signed to West’s label GOOD Music.
After fighting the suggestion to change his stage name to John Legend because of insistent friends calling him that, he released his debut studio album, Get Lifted, in 2004. The album shot to the top ten Billboard Hot 100 within three weeks and was certified double platinum by RIAA.
John hasn’t looked back at all. His subsequent collaborations with other artists and solo releases have earned him several awards and top ten hits.
He is easily one of the most successful R&B artists of his time and can indeed be regarded as a living legend. Furthermore, he has received a total of seventeen Grammys.
John has composed music for films, winning an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. He’s been given the Hal David Starlight Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame and portrayed Jesus Christ in “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
John Legend is the first black man and second youngest person to receive all four of the big American entertainment awards: Oscar, Grammy, Emmy, and Tony.
I can in no way state that a single list of songs can truly encompass the scale of John Legend’s musical achievements and skill. But here are my picks for the Best John Legend songs of All Time.
- Top 48 Best John Legend Songs of All Time
- 1 Ordinary People
- 2 Number One
- 3 Made To Love
- 4 Green Light
- 5 You & I (Nobody In The World)
- 6 Bigger Love
- 7 Used to Love U
- 8 Hang On In There
- 9 Love Me Now
- 10 All Of Me
- 11 Glory (feat. Common)
- 12 A Good Night (feat. BloodPop)
- 13 P.D.A. (We Just Don’t Care)
- 14 Tonight (Best You Ever Had) (feat. Ludacris)
- 15 Who Did That to You?
- 16 It’s Over (feat. Kanye West)
- 17 She Don’t Have to Know
- 18 Each Day Gets Better
- 19 Used to Love U (Live)
- 20 Live It Up (feat. Miri Ben-Ari)
- 21 A Million
- 22 Love Me Now (Dave Audé Remix)
- 23 No Other Love (feat. Estelle)
- 24 Please Baby Don’t (feat. Sergio Mendes)
- 25 Sun Comes Up (feat. David Guetta)
- 26 Wanna Be Loved
- 27 We Need Love
- 28 Who Do We Think We Are (feat. Rick Ross)
- 29 Overload (feat. Miguel)
- 30 Slow Dance
- 31 Aim High
- 32 I Can Change (feat. Snoop Dogg)
- 33 One Woman Man
- 34 We Loved It
- 35 Roll Jordan Roll
- 36 Heaven Only Knows
- 37 Open Your Eyes
- 38 Another Again (Live)
- 39 Good Morning (Intro)
- 40 Surefire
- 41 Hold on Longer
- 42 Refuge (When It’s Cold Outside) (Live)
- 43 Show Me (feat. Nas)
- 44 Ordinary People (Live)
- 45 Wanna Be Loved (Live)
- 46 You & I (Nobody In The World) (R3hab Remix)
- 47 The Beginning
- 48 All of Me (Tiesto’s Birthday
- Looking for Awesome Songs?
- Best John Legend Songs of All Time – Conclusion
Top 48 Best John Legend Songs of All Time
Album: Get Lifted
This song deserves its place among John Legend’s greatest songs for two good reasons. Number one, this is a simple song in terms of arrangement and composition. The power of John’s songwriting and composing abilities are laid bare, and don’t rely on fancy production magic to add substance.
Not that the production was bad. Will I Am was involved, and John had produced his first two demos himself, so he was no stranger to turning knobs and faders.
His piano playing on “Ordinary People” is one of John’s most spontaneous sounding recordings. The phrasing adds uncertainty which helps to illustrate the ups and downs relationships go through. That is one of the major lyrical themes in “Ordinary People.”
No ordinary musician…
This was one of Legend’s first singles and earned him a Grammy award for best male R&B Vocal Performance. The song was nominated in two other categories that year. It was also the first of his many top 40 hits, peaking at #24 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Album: Get Lifted
Starting with a slow, emotional song was a given. Most would agree it’s what he’s best at. But, by no means is John Legend, a one-trick pony.
It might be a bit of a bummer subject, but the melody and rhythm showcase John’s ability to write a good upbeat tune as well. This song also features a different palate to his voice which can sound just as full of optimism and joy as it can melancholy, nostalgia, and pain.
“Number One” features Kanye West and a sample from a staple singer’s song; it peaked at #62 on the UK Singles chart and #82 on the US Hip-Hop and R&B Billboard 100.
Made To Love
Album: Love In The Future
This one might not have some incredible story or anecdote to go with it, and it’s not even a great performer chart-wise.
But, the fact is this tearjerker contains all the emotion, beauty, and skill required to make a fantastic serenade, and that’s what “Made To Love” is. I’m willing to bet it can be scientifically proven that no lady can stand still when this song plays.
Here we have a classic example of the smash hits that John is capable of producing. “Green Light” was not a song that lingered in obscurity. The fact that it featured Outkast’s Andre 3000 only added to the hype generated when it was released.
This song features an epic hooky chorus and an intoxicating beat. The funk-electronic sound was a departure from John’s previous work. That is illustrated in the music video featuring him smashing the lid closed on a piano after no one seems to react to his slow love ballad at a party.
A smash hit that brings the house down every time. One critic perfectly described it as a club banger. The single is one of John Legend’s best selling songs with a gold certification and peaking at #24 on the Billboard Hot 100.
You & I (Nobody In The World)
Album: Love In The Future
No female fan of John Legend would forgive me for excluding this song from the list. Come to think of it, neither would my mother. Not that I would ever dream of it.
This song merits a place among some of the greatest R&B songs ever written. “You & I (Nobody In The World)” can be seen as the song that kicked his career into superstardom, but that is beside the point.
Featuring vocals by the superb Alicia Keys, this song was the third single from 2014’s Love In The Future and is a gorgeous tribute to women everywhere. The equally exceptional music video features cameos by Chrissy Teigen and Laverne Cox.
Album: Bigger Love
Speaking of popular John Legend songs that have great music videos, “Bigger Love” was conceptually one of the best music videos for a single to promote a new album ever. To create the music video for this heart-warmer, Legend turned to his millions of devoted fans across the world.
The song was inspired by the lack of solidarity amongst us as we began to segregate from one another due to the coronavirus pandemic. In John’s words, the purpose of this song and video was “to celebrate our shared love, hope, and resilience.”
Used to Love U
Album: Get Lifted
Here, we have John showing something we don’t often see, the cold shoulder. This low-key number from his debut Get Lifted is another example of how John doesn’t need much backup.
All the other elements in this mix serve only to accentuate and decorate the story and sonic soundscape created by his voice and lyrics. “Used to Love U” peaked at #2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Hang On In There
Album: Wake Up! (feat. The Roots)
Teaming up with The Roots for 2010’s Wake Up! is a testament to John’s inability to become complacent in his musical development.
While not only growing as a songwriter and musician, he’s constantly exploring new ideas. Forcing himself into different creative climates that challenge him to come up with new sounds.
This song, more than any other on this list, showcases John Legend, the composer and musician. Working with excellent players such as The Roots merely added to the greatness of the sound achieved on this song and album.
A very dynamic piece that takes you to several different places. Listen to this one with your eyes closed, and you’ll see what I mean.
John cleaned house at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards, walking away with Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “Hang On In There.” The album Wake Up! Won best R&B album, and the other single from the album “Shine” won best R&B song.
Love Me Now
Album: Darkness And Light
One of the most personal John Legend songs for my money. When you’re talking about John Legend, that’s saying a lot. “Love Me Now” simply exudes the masterfulness with which John can write ballads that contain such overwhelming warmth and beauty.
However, he does add some energy which gives this song a particular color and flavor. When asked about the song, Legend said, “It is all about living and loving to the fullest, no matter what tomorrow may bring.” The video features a glimpse of his beautiful baby, Luna.
All Of Me
Album: Love In The Future
Yes, of course, this song was going to be on a list of the best John Legend songs of all time. Even if you’re not a fan or somehow have no idea who John Legend is, chances are this one will cross your mind when you think ‘Love Song.’
John’s mastery of this particular type of song is beyond the comprehension of most. The passionate performance on the studio recording and, above all, the simple and pure message makes “All Of Me” a classic by anyone’s measure.
As with many of his other compositions, John’s wife inspired “All of Me.” It’s not only one of John Legend’s greatest hits but one of the most powerful love songs ever written. It peaked at #3 on the US Billboard Adult R&B Songs Chart.
Glory (feat. Common)
Digital Release 2014
Composed for the motion picture “Selma,” which was inspired by the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches. This song features some of Legend’s best writing and singing. But, it also serves a much deeper purpose in its historical meaning.
That being said, unlike many historical songs inspired by past horrors, this was imbued with a soul that looks to the future with optimism.
“Glory” peaked at #49 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. Furthermore, the song won the best original song at the 87th annual Grammy Awards and the 72nd Golden Globe Awards. It also won the Grammy for Best Song Written For Visual Media.
A Good Night (feat. BloodPop)
P.D.A. (We Just Don’t Care)
Tonight (Best You Ever Had) (feat. Ludacris)
Who Did That to You?
It’s Over (feat. Kanye West)
She Don’t Have to Know
Each Day Gets Better
Used to Love U (Live)
Live It Up (feat. Miri Ben-Ari)
Love Me Now (Dave Audé Remix)
No Other Love (feat. Estelle)
Please Baby Don’t (feat. Sergio Mendes)
Sun Comes Up (feat. David Guetta)
Wanna Be Loved
We Need Love
Who Do We Think We Are (feat. Rick Ross)
Overload (feat. Miguel)
I Can Change (feat. Snoop Dogg)
One Woman Man
We Loved It
Roll Jordan Roll
Heaven Only Knows
Open Your Eyes
Another Again (Live)
Good Morning (Intro)
Hold on Longer
Refuge (When It’s Cold Outside) (Live)
Show Me (feat. Nas)
Ordinary People (Live)
Wanna Be Loved (Live)
You & I (Nobody In The World) (R3hab Remix)
All of Me (Tiesto’s Birthday
Looking for Awesome Songs?
We can help. Take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Songs About Heroes, the Best Songs About Dreams, the Best Songs About Change, the Best Fleetwood Mac Songs, and the Best 90s Love Songs for more great musical selections.
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Best John Legend Songs of All Time – Conclusion
One day, mankind will assemble some kind of homage to all the great love songs in history. Chances are good that more than one of the songs featured in said homage will be by John Legend.
He is quite simply one of the best R&B singers and musicians of the century. And “All Of Me” is not just one of the greatest love songs ever written; it’s one of the greatest songs ever written period.
Until next time, happy listening.