Song 131: John Legend, “Number One” (2004)


Oh man, I’ve written about some dumb songs, but this one may be the dumbest. It doesn’t sound like it, from its Staple Singers sample to its Kanye West production. Hell, the name “John Legend” alone connotes classiness and formality. And yet “Number One” is so, so dumb.

Just look at that album cover up there: does it look like a record that features a song about how, just because you cheat on someone, it doesn’t mean you don’t love them? Or the line “I keep it strapped up when I sleep around”? Or Kanye West rapping in character as his own penis? No, it does not. C’mon, the dude is wearing a turtleneck. A turtleneck.

But boy oh boy do I love “Number One.” The whole thing goes down so easy, thanks to West’s production and, of course, Legend’s butter-smooth voice, which could (and probably does) melt ice cubes. And you’ve got to admire that takes such a direct, brazen approach to its viewpoint, even though that viewpoint is pretty shitty. Countless hip-hop songs imply such an outlook, but “Number One” comes out and says it: Why are you so mad at me for sleeping with other women? I love you, baby! Brazen.

Generally, I’m not a big fan of John Legend; his songs tend to be too bland for my tastes. But he’s obviously really talented, both as a pianist and a singer, and I wish he’d do more songs like this, silly and misogynistic as it is. At least it’s interesting.


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