The album debuted at number 4 on the U.S. Billboard 200 to sales of 132,823 copies. It also entered the UK Albums Chart at number 21, and reached number 26 on the national Japanese albums chart, as well as number 5 on the Japanese foreign chart. The album has received positive reviews from music critics. Since the album's release, it has sold 617,528 copies in the U.S. and has been certified Gold by the RIAA.
In May 2009, the song "This Time" was featured prominently in the closing scenes of the third season finale of the CW/BETcomedy-drama television series The Game.
Speaking in July 2008 to noted UK R&B writer Pete Lewis of the award-winning Blues & Soul, Legend explained what he wanted to achieve musically with 'Evolver': "I wanted it to be diverse. So I basically just wanted to make some great records that together covered the whole gamut of the various forms of expression I feel comfortable doing. So we have a couple of club tracks; we have a reggae song; we have a few really strong ballads... and kind of everything in between. Plus we have a political anthem at the end as well. So, while there are some elements that people have heard in previous albums of mine, I also think there are some things people HAVEN'T heard from me before. And I think that's what makes the album interesting. In particular I feel I've made different arrangement and production choices this time. While I don't think my writing style itself has changed significantly, sonically the main difference is that we chose to use more electronic instruments on this record."
The album so far has a score of 67 out of 100 from Metacritic based on "generally favorable reviews".The Independent gave it four stars out of five and said that the album was "not perfect... but it would be churlish not to praise its ability and ambition."Yahoo! Music UK gave it eight stars out of ten and said that "Once Again remains Legend's best record. But Evolver, in all its modernity and timeliness, may well become his biggest."Now likewise gave it four stars out of five and stated that the album, "like everything else Legend has done, showcases his skill as an artist, but it lacks the passion that would help him reach the Stevie Wonder status he strives for."The A.V. Club gave the album a B and said, "Smooth to a fault, Evolver solidifies Legend's standing in the pantheon of good soul singers, but greatness continues to elude him."
Billboard gave it a positive review and said that "Legend's voice remains beyond reproach, but for a guy who's an oasis of style and soul in a sea of synthetic, robo-call R&B, at times it seems like he's playing catch-up."The New York Times likewise gave it a positive review and stated: "With reverberations and a choral backdrop straight out of Seal, it’s his only overreach. Mr. Legend is more charming one-on-one."The Village Voice also gave it a favorable review and stated: "As the dying industry is still breathing in the toxins of useless filler, patrons like John Legend are fully indulging their creativity in all its flawed glory, just like the soul giants of yesteryear."AllHipHop likewise gave it a positive review and stated: "Even if Evolver is less cohesive due to the integration of the Pop sound to the alternative styles [Legend] played around with in Once Again, it still is light years ahead of any artist mimicking his suave persona."The Boston Globe similarly gave it a positive review and stated that, "As the title suggests, Legend is a work-in-progress, and this stage in his evolution is worth hearing."Hartford Courant likewise gave it a positive review and said that the album "delivers what it promises: A singer, songwriter and musician pushing himself to grow. This is a good first step."
Other reviews are average, mixed or negative: Mojo gave the album a score of three stars out of five and called it "a good album, but there's a pull between the commercial and the more left-field."Q also gave it three stars out of five and said that the album was "more in the same gold-standard, singer-songwriterly vein."Spin gave it a score of six out of ten and said, "Though he's unlikely to encounter much trouble selling these romantic conceits to his female-heavy fan base, some of the scenarios on John Legend's third studio album could be fresher."The Guardian likewise gave it three stars out of five and said, "As on Legend's previous two efforts, his balladry can tend towards the beige, and oatmeal slow jams such as 'Cross the Line' prove unmemorable; but the innate warmth of Legend's voice mostly carries his material."Slant Magazine also gave it three stars out of five and said, "For a change, Legend doesn't constantly sound as though he's trying to impress the VH1 cognoscenti with his impeccable musicality. Sure, that's to say it's occasionally dumb, but oh so approachable."Hot Press gave it the same score of three out of five and said, "Legend manages to capture the optimistic spirit of Barack Obama in addition to his mastery of soul, pop and hip-hop".Blender, however, gave the album two stars out of five and called it "the least accomplished of [Legend's] albums" but "nonetheless a refreshing change of sorts, for all its faults, at least as far as missteps are concerned."