Sunday, March 15th, 2015

Common & John Legend – Glory

Best Original Song at the Oscars. And the Jukebox?

Josh Langhoff: “I bet that made Daddy cry,” my wife told my son after Lonnie Lynn and John Stephens played the Oscars. She knows me well, but “Glory” hadn’t done so before that night and it hasn’t since. I’m grateful to these two for enshrining Ferguson on future compilations of Oscar-winning songs, and as far as Oscar do-goodery goes, it could suck plenty worse — see Melissa Etheridge’s “I Need to Wake Up.” But if we’re talking pop songs not teachable moments, “Glory” has about one tenth the make-Daddy-cry power of “Black and White,” a song it otherwise corrects and refutes.

Rebecca A. Gowns: The lyrics are beautiful, full of both “now” and “then.” “Selma is now”: there are reverberations through time; centuries of hurt and pain and a whole river of strength. There’s a lot of poetry in here. The music itself is a different story. There are some parts that accent the message in a pretty, charming way, but it’s altogether too shiny, a bit too Hallmark. The strings in particular read as mawkish and “Oscar-winning.” The choir is hushed, and John Legend and Common are so deliberate and careful with their delivery that it feels like the 40th take… so focused that it borders on overworked.

Micha Cavaseno: Kanye’s former hired guns continue to extend their careers of not being good at what they do. John Legend’s never heard a note he couldn’t unnecessarily sing sharp, and Common is the one of the greatest men paid to rap with no sense of rhythm whatsoever. It’s noble and austere but ultimately weak, and I’d prefer the rewards went to the film this soundtrack cut was meant to support instead.

Alfred Soto: When asked a couple weeks ago to submit a list of the worst songs ever, I didn’t hesitate before naming “All of Me,” doomed to remain in recurrent rotation for the next five years and paying Legend’s mortgages. This track from the good and often excellent Selma is, like many Legend tracks, structured without imagination and, like many Common tracks, smart without inspiration. It goes on too long. It’s well-intentioned. Of course it was an Oscar hit.

Katherine St Asaph: Any awards-show song worth its accolades must be inflated with equal parts greatness and inevitability (even if accolades for the parent movie proved very much evitable), until critique of the song is nigh-inextricable from critique of its franchise and/or message. With “Glory,” it feels particularly churlish to even try.

Thomas Inskeep: This is a tough one to review, fraught as it is with so much meaning. Common is the right rapper to make this track, because he’s been spitting political rhymes for 20+ years: he’s no johnny-come-lately to the topic. He’s always been at the forefront, talking about issues of race and socioeconomic inequality, so he’s a natural to write a rap for Selma. John Legend makes sense here, too, as he’s, well, the male Alicia Keys, and has a rich, resonant voice to match the tenor of Common’s lyrics. Is it all a bit bland? Yeah, it is. But it’s forgivable because this is a song in service to its parent material (in this case a film), so while it’s not something I’m apt to actively listen to of my own accord, I respect it plenty.

Ashley Ellerson: Common and John Legend could’ve made a simple yet moving song about the marches in Selma, or even a generalized inspirational tune that could be used in multiple films and TV shows, but they said “nah, we gotta do more. The past is still the present.” Honestly, I don’t think a more perfect or relevant anthem for these tiring days of injustice has been produced in the past decade. When we fail to express our anguish with simple prose, “we sing, our music is the cuts that we bleed through.”

Reader average: [7] (3 votes)

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