All of Me

All of me by thebutterfly-d7dzoc4.jpg

Date Aired
April 11, 2014
Running Time
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Clip from Grammys Vlog - Jan. 27, 2014
Todd: But like I said, this...this was one of the better ones, but it's still kind of boring. There were five different songs, three of them in a row were just like, basically had the same setup I do: just person and a piano. Maybe they can be more exciting, pick it up. Does anyone really care about John Legend? I mean, I didn't even know he had a song out this year. Did you?

Two months later...

Todd: Goddamn mother...! How am I so bad at this?! Just once, I'd like to say something doesn't matter, and then have it not matter. Anyway...

Todd plays "All of Me" on the piano

A pop song review

Todd: So, apparently people do care about John Legend, so let's talk about him.

Video for "Tonight (Best You Ever Had)"
John Legend: I hit you with the best stroke

Todd (VO): So this is John Legend, [picture of, performing at Super Bowl XLVII...] the male Alicia Keys. He's not as pretty as her. [Beat] Oh, okay, he kinda is; but I guess not enough so, so he's not as successful.

Todd: But in pretty much every other regard, her and him are virtually identical.

Todd (VO): They're neo-soul-influenced piano players, smart, classy, impossibly talented as singers and pianists, and yet somehow kind of limited artistically by all of the above.

Todd: The kind of guy people wish they liked more than they do.

Video for "Used to Love U"
John: Maybe it's me
Maybe I bore you

Todd: [sigh] Yeah, maybe.

Todd (VO): And yeah, I do like John Legend—or at the very least, I respect him—but I was really surprised to see him have a huge pop hit like he has right now, especially this one.

Video for "All of Me"
John: 'Cause all of me...

Todd (VO): Actually, I don't know how many people actually know anything about the guy, so I figure I'd better give some backstory.

Todd: In terms of pop success, John Legend has had basically only two notable songs, and neither of them were huge, but they were the closest he's gotten to pop stardom.

Clip of "Ordinary People"

Todd (VO): The first was his breakthrough and signature tune, "Ordinary People".

John: We're just ordinary people

Todd (VO): Now this was a stripped-down solo piano ballad, and I absolutely loved it, but it kind of gave me the impression that he was not a guy worth exploring further.

Todd: His other hit was a much more upbeat dance jam with Andre 3000 called "Green Light".

Clip of "Green Light"
John: I just need permission so
Give me the green light

Todd (VO): This was also a pretty damn great song, and in a better world, the go-to anthem for picking up chicks would be John Legend's smooth, respectful request for the green light, and not [clip of "Blurred Lines" by...] Robin Thicke's pushy, mouth-breathing insistence that he "knows you want it." Ugh. But somehow, "Green Light" didn't break the impression of John Legend as a guy who makes sleepy music for old people.

Todd: If anything, it kind of reinforced it.

Andre 3000: Sometimes you gotta step from behind the piano

Todd (VO): "Green Light" can only come off like a fluke when both the song and the video make fun of him for being boring.

In the video, John plays "Ordinary People"
John: Only ordinary people

Todd (VO): I mean, look at that poor guy, just playing his piano at a party, no one paying attention. You just feel sorry for him. What a sad, pathetic schmuck that guy is.

[Cut to party: Todd at piano, with Paw, Elisa Hansen and Kyle standing around.]
Todd: All right, everybody sing along!
Dear Slim: I wrote you, but you still ain't callin'
I left my cell, my pager, and my home phone at the bottom
[The three party-goers slowly back away]
I sent you two letters back in autumn, you must not have got 'em
There probably was a problem at the post office
Clip of "PDA (We Just Don't Care)"
John: Let's go to the park

Todd (VO): And none of that is really fair to the guy. He's a more interesting artist and all that. I mean, he works with Kanye, he released a single about banging in public.

John: Let's go somewhere they might discover us

Todd (VO): It's just that he's never been interested in playing the pop stardom game. He's not gonna be like, you know, Ne-Yo or Robin Thicke. He's not that kind of guy, he's a [brief clip of "Wake Up Everybody"] guy who makes a whole album with the Roots—another act people say they like but don't actually listen to.

Todd: But he deserves better regardless. know, I feel like maybe I was unfairly dismissive of his Grammy performance.

Video for "All of Me"

Todd (VO): John Legend has his first bona fide pop smash, sitting at #2 as I say this, and goddamn, we could use a little sophistication in our music, right? So I'm gonna sit here and...

Todd: ...really appreciate it, even if I have to turn off my reflexive disdain for "black guy with acoustic piano" songs. [beat] Wait, that's not even a thing, is it? Okay, well then, there's no problem. Let's enjoy.

Video begins

Todd: [rubbing chin] Why, that sounds quite good. Yes.

John: My head's under water
But I'm breathing fine

Todd: [with glass of wine in hand] Yes, so much better than that undignified DeRulo fellow. Don't you all agree?

John: 'Cause all of me
Loves all of you
[Brief shot of Todd reading book and wearing glasses]
Love your curves and all your edges
'Cause I give you all of me

Todd looks up from book, then closes it and takes off glasses

Todd: Stop. Stop. Okay, I'm still not feeling this.

Todd (VO): I don't know, this is still just leaving me completely cold. I'm just... why isn't this working? Shouldn't I like this? I'm a piano guy, I should stand up for a fellow piano player. Okay...

Todd: be fair, I don't really play like John Legend. He's a very precise performer, and my instructors called my playing a little less...delicate?

Back to party, the three party-goers just can't watch. Kyle is hiding behind a book
Todd: Exit light, enter night

Todd: You know, I still like John Legend, and I loved [clip of...] "Ordinary People", and that was basically no different from this. Why isn't this doing it for me?

Okay, well, thinking back, I think I got one answer. You have to put it in context.

Todd (VO): "Ordinary People" was a hit in 2005.

Todd: This is what 2005 sounded like.

Clips of Black Eyed Peas - "My Humps"...
Fergie: My hump, my hump
My hump, my hump, my hump
...50 Cent ft. Olivia - "Candy Shop"...
50 Cent: Take you to the candy shop
I let you lick the lollipop
...Gwen Stefani - "Hollaback Girl"
Gwen: 'Cause I ain't no hollaback girl
I ain't no hollaback girl

Todd: So you see why "Ordinary People" stood out.

Todd (VO): I mean, a guy who was brave enough to just sit at the piano and let that do all the work was a real breath of fresh air. [Back to "All of Me"] But ten years later, oversupply has lowered the value of that currency.

Clip of Bruno Mars - "When I Was Your Man"
Bruno: Same bed but it feels just a little bit...

Todd (VO): Yeah, we got plenty of piano ballads.

Todd: Piano ballads from black guys, [brief clips of A Great Big World - "Say Something"...] white guys, [Christina Perri - "Human"...] white girls, [...and Rihanna - "Stay"] black girls, we weren't really starving for another one.

Todd (VO): So for one, it's not anything new; and for another, you wanna know what the upbeat dance song is we have to compare it to now?

Todd: 'Cause it sure ain't 50 Cent.

Clip of Pharrell - "Happy"
Pharrell: It might seem crazy, what I'm 'bout to say

Todd (VO): Yes, John Legend is being kept off of the top of the charts right now by 2013's MVP, Pharrell, apparently this year's winner of the "fluke retro-soul hit sweepstakes".

Todd: Old jokes don't die, they just adapt to the times.

Pharrell: Because I'm happy

Todd (VO): And just like previous sweepstakes winners like Andre 3000 and Cee-Lo Green, Pharrell looks to the past to give us the really fun and funky side of old school soul. And technically, John Legend is a neo-soul artist too, but "All of Me" is probably the least soulful and most easy-listening thing Legend has ever done.

Todd: Put it like this. Pharrell is giving us [brief clips of Stevie Wonder...] Songs in the Key of Life, [...and Lionel Richie] and Legend is giving us "Three Times a Lady". But the other songs out there don't matter that much. I don't...

Todd (VO): if literally every other song out right now were stupid club pop like in 2005. It doesn't matter if this song isn't good on its own.

Todd: And...I don't know, it's just not very impressive.

Todd (VO): There's no way to listen to this song without comparing it to "Ordinary People", and it fails to live up in pretty much every conceivable measure. And I know I say this over and over again—if you expect a song to survive on just the bare bones, those bare bones better be goddamn amazing.

Todd: If they are not, do something else.

Todd (VO): And "Ordinary People" absolutely lived up to that standard. It's just impressive from the first notes. [Start of "Ordinary People"] It's got that fancy, complicated intro full of all these hand-busting arpeggiated chords.

Todd: [placing sheet music] Here, let me try and play it for you. Okay... [plays as chords are displayed, struggling a bit] wait, wait... slow down... [final chord is a mess] okay, screw you.

Todd (VO): Yeah, but you see my point, right? It's impressive. Now compare that...

Todd: the piano intro to "All of Me".

Single bar of Nick Long's "Four Chord Song" over opening of Journey - "Don't Stop Believing"

Todd (VO): Wait, are you kidding me? This is a "pop song chords" song.

Todd: Let me see this. [Plays intro to "All of Me" and whistles along to find it's right] Oh, how about that.

Todd (VO): Well, it wasn't even about the chords, it's just not very complicated. [Intro goes on] I can get my dog to play that.

Todd: [pats legs] Matter of fact, come here. Come here. [Picks up Kali] Who's a good dog? Now play John Legend. Play John Legend. [Places Kali's paws on appropriate keys, with a couple sour notes] Oh, good enough. Good enough. Who's so good? Who's so talented? Now play this part.

John: My head's under water

Todd: Oh, we'll work on that later. [Puts Kali down] Who's a good dog?

Todd (VO): And "Ordinary People" wasn't just complex in the piano fingering, it was also complex emotionally, like the ways that love is confusing, difficult, hard work, and people make mistakes. "All of Me" is not about that. It's about...well, it's about [I <3 You image] "I love you."

Todd: "I love you"—nothing more, nothing less.

Todd (VO): He's taken the most overused chords and most overused instrumentation for the most overused theme in history.

Todd: It's not like it's added anything new. Like, what does it have to say about "I love you"?

John: 'Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges

Todd (VO): All your diameters and vertices. Like...

Todd: that it? I...I don't know what I'm supposed to do with this. "All of me loves all of you." Is that...does that mean anything? It's not like...

Todd (VO): ..."all of me" and "all of you" adds anything; it was implied. We knew that already. No one was ever singing...

Todd: [singing] some of me loves part of you.
I don't like your imperfections
That's why they're called imperfections

Todd (VO): Damn it, John. Try harder. What specifically do you like about this girl? Why is she so great that you give her all of you? Start from the beginning.

John: What would I do without your smart mouth?
Drawing me in, and you kicking me out

Todd (VO): Oh, oh, okay.

Todd: You like being kicked out by her smart mouth. [beat] That didn't sound flattering at all.

John: What would I do without your smart mouth?

Todd: Dude, you know what "smart mouth" means, right?

Todd (VO): Arrogant, obnoxious, needs to shut up.

Todd: I don't think I've ever heard "smart mouth" used as a compliment. That's like saying, "what would I do without your fat face?" I mean, maybe "fat face" is a term of endearment between you and her, I don't know.

Todd (VO): And "kicking me out"?

John: ...and you kicking me out

Todd: I gather you don't mean being forcibly evicted, which is what most people mean by it. What did you mean by it? It sounds like you're being jerked around.

John: I can't pin you down
What's going on in that beautiful mind

Todd: This is...are you sure you're in love, dude? How do you know her mind is beautiful if you don't know what's going on in it?

John: And I'm so dizzy

Todd (VO): The more I listen to this, honestly, he doesn't sound in love, he just sounds confused, trying to convince himself.

Todd: How can you love all of her when you don't even seem to know half of her?

John: You're crazy and I'm out of my mind

Todd (VO): know, love can be confusing. It can be crazy and exciting, so I guess that's what John Legend's going for, that kind of dizzy, euphoric infatuation that...

Todd: ..."Ordinary People" was emphatically not about.

John: Past the infatuation phase

Todd (VO): And it wasn't about that for a damn good reason—it's a solo piano song. This kind of music...this does not make me feel wild, crazy in love; it makes me feel like I'm [picture of fancy restaurant] eating dinner.

Todd: I mean, a nice dinner at a fancy place, someplace you'd want to take someone you love, if that was what he was going for. But it does not make me feel I'm in love, it makes me feel like seeing if I want to splurge on the [picture of...] beef cordon bleu.

Todd (VO): And lyrically, John Legend has one other trick here.

John: All your perfect imperfections
Todd (VO): "Perfect imperfections," you... It's almost [brief clip of "Little Things" by...] One Direction-level bad.

Todd: Okay, no, it's not, nothing's that bad. But you see, John Legend pulls...

Todd (VO): ...the rhetorical trick of claiming that even the bad things are actually good things.

Todd: Maybe he pulls that trick a little too often.

John: Perfect imperfections
Even when you're crying you're beautiful too
Even when I lose I'm winning
Clip from Mystery Men
Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller): Okay, am I the only one who finds these sayings just a little bit formulaic? "If you want to push something down, you have to pull it up. If you want to go left, you have to go right."

Todd: Now is "All of Me" the worst song I've ever heard? No, not at all.

Todd (VO): John Legend's a great piano player, he's a great singer, and compare it to Bruno Mars, and it's obvious how much more sincere and heartfelt he is, and if we get some better John Legend out of this, I'm not gonna complain. I just wish it was something other than this. I wish it was more than a talented artist lucking out on a Top 40 trend with his weakest single to date.

Todd: This is corny and boring and kind of vapid and...ugh, I don't know, disappointed. None of me likes any of this. Sorry.

Gets up and leaves

John: ...of you, oh

Closing tag song: Frank Sinatra - "All of Me"

"All of Me" is owned by Columbia Records
This video is owned by me

Back to party. Todd is all alone

Todd: I'm the man in the box

Todd looks around and finds he's alone. He gets up, hides the liquor bottle inside his hoodie, and leaves

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