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John Legend 

Once Again (Goodmusic/Sony)

There are a number of words to describe contemporary mainstream R&B, but "sophisticated" isn't one of them. And then there's John Legend. At 28, Legend writes songs that give the lie to the saying, "They don't make 'em like they used to." Consider the piano-driven ballad "Again." Sparsely produced by Craig Street, it articulates the anguish of succumbing to illicit desire. That sentiment picks up again four tracks later on the jazzier, more upbeat, Kanye West-produced "Another Again." Thankfully, Once Again is devoid of the machismo that passes for romance in most modern R&B. Like Bacharach or the Fifth Dimension, Legend paints with a soft brush. But it beats R. Kelly's stiffy any day.

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