I'm so very conflicted about John Legend's cover of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep." Considering how he assaulted Donny Hathaway's "Little Ghetto Boy," I wasn't exactly holding my breath for another John Legend reinterpretation. Without provocation, John took an a capella stab at the already classic song, without Estelle at his side, without a band to
hide back his vocals. The response to his version has been quite mixed, and I can see the confusion. Yes, he can carry tunes without relying on studio tricks. Whether he's carrying the tunes to an execution chamber or not is beside the point. Sure he's got that raspy, soulful thing happening. But his raspy delivery often borders on straining and painful, so it's not always a good thing. Seeing his negro spiritualization of the track leads me to a few conclusions. Firstly, one could either applaud the boldness or ridicule the nerve required to strip the song down. Exposing one's limitations -- and limitations aplenty there are -- is never easy, so clap it up for him. Secondly, the anguish of a million slaves lives in John's vocal chords. If anyone is familiar with struggle, those vocal chords sure the hell are. Lastly, if there were ever a film documenting Harriet Tubman's life, this is the song that would play during the montage where scenes of her daring escapes are interwoven with a hot and heavy romp in the field during her wild years. Thanks, but no thanks. Check out John bringing the struggle to life in this soundcheck footage from the Rock & Roots Festival in Singapore.