Evolver, the third studio album from piano-tickling loverman John Legend, gets off to a phenomenal start with "Green Light," a knockout first single that sounds like the soundtrack to the first coffeehouse on Mars. Over spacey synth lines and subtle drum-and-bass flourishes, Legend captures the giddy intoxication of infatuation, while Andre 3000 steals the track and the album with a slippery, free-associative rap that captures the OutKast icon at his loosest and goofiest. It's the rare freestyle rap that actually sounds spontaneous. Andre is clearly having a ball rapping, an occasion as glorious as it is rare. From there, Legend seductively explores the various permutations of love. On the next track, "It's Over," he delivers a gently funky kiss-off to a dumped lover neither aided nor hindered by a Vocoder-crazed Kanye West getting busy with the clumsy pop-culture references, and on "Quickly," Legend audaciously posits the impending end of the world as the perfect excuse for eschewing elaborate mating rituals in favor of getting right down to business sexually. Evolver's second half goes a little heavy on sleepy ballads, but reaches outside Legend's comfort zone of slick romance for the simultaneously mawkish and inspiring "If You're Out There," which delivers an Obama-tastic message of hope. Smooth to a fault, Evolver solidifies Legend's standing in the pantheon of good soul singers, but greatness continues to elude him.

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