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Coachella 2013: John Legend dips into dance

April 14, 2013|By Gerrick D. Kennedy
  • Musician John Legend and DJ Benny Benassi perform Saturday at the 2013 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio.
Musician John Legend and DJ Benny Benassi perform Saturday at the 2013 Coachella… (Mark Davis / Getty Images…)

No other genre has benefited more from EDM’s current notch on the cultural landscape than urban pop.

The global, four-on-the-floor Europop that dance DJs used to become superstars first circled the genre, then sunk its claws in deep thanks to smash singles from Rihanna and Kelly Rowland.

Now John Legend is the latest, and most unsuspecting, visitor to the genre-blending world.

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Recent club-savvy releases from R&B crooners like Usher, Chris Brown and Ne-Yo have reflected a major shift toward more Europop textures of EDM, even as acts like Frank Ocean and Miguel have aggressively pulled away from the sounds in a bid to craft electronic-dipped R&B that doesn't cater to the dance crowd in search of pulsating synths. 

The soul crooner surprised sweat-soaked festival-goers who crammed the Sahara tent for Italian spinster Benny Benassi.

Amid the seizure-inducing strobes and flailing bodies, Legend popped out to debut a new single, "Dance the Pain Away,” a collaboration with Benassi.

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Legend’s foray into the dance world was courtesy of a booming foot stomper. It’s tailor made for late-night dance fests where everyone is entirely too inebriated to care about anything more than the beat, as evidenced by the crowd of sticky bodies moving along to the euphoric production hoping to escape, if only just temporarily.

The flirtation between the two genres is understandable. No other urban pop act has managed to master the balancing act quite like Rihanna, though, and her track record has proved rather fruitful. She ruled radio last year with "We Found Love" and "Where Have You Been," both produced by popular dance DJ Calvin Harris, and did the same this year with the ethereal electro stomp of the Sia-penned “Diamonds”

"Dance the Pain Away" is a stretch from Legend’s previous works -- and arguably more taut than the dance numbers from his peers -- but although he experimented sonically, he didn’t abandon those gospel-rooted vocals that makes your soul move.

Even Legend's sweet falsetto managed to soar high above the Sahara tent, even if the song didn’t float quite so high.


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