My friends and I have never called John Legend by his name. Seriously. When Kanye West’s College Dropout came out and the four of us were huddled by the university’s sound stage with our teddy bear t-shirts, he was just the “piano guy,” talented as golden ducats but still nameless. Though we didn’t know his name, we acknowledged his comet-like stage presence; he was like a Motown deus ex machina armed with keyboard and delicious vocals. Ten minutes before Kanye comes on, he asks, “Can I play you just one song?” Three of his opening-act colleagues had asked the same question to sucked teeth and groans, but we, the audience, were refreshed that John Legend’s rhetorical question did not bind us to a rhetorical answer, that we could say yes and mean it.
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