Ordinary People (song)
|Single by John Legend|
|from the album Get Lifted|
|Released||April 7, 2005|
|John Legend singles chronology|
"Ordinary People" is a song by American recording artist John Legend. It was written and produced by Legend and will.i.am for his debut album Get Lifted (2004). It was released as the album's second single and later certified gold by the RIAA. Critics were positive towards the song, praising it for its raw emotion and simplicity. "Ordinary People" won the Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.
The video for "Ordinary People" features Legend playing a grand piano in an all-white space, while couples and families fight and reconcile around and in front of the piano. For the final minute of the video, Legend is joined by a string section and (audibly) a harmonica. Legend walks to and from the piano with a glass of water, as a short bookending to the video proper.
The song's lyrical themes include contrast, contradiction, guilt, doubt and fear. Legend sings about how people make errors of judgment in relationships ("I know I misbehaved/And you've made your mistakes/And we both still got room left to grow."), and that fighting and making up in the end is a regular obstacle: "And though love sometimes hurts/I still put you first/And we'll make this thing work/But I think we should take it slow." The lyrics include parallel structure to address the common ups-and-downs of maintaining a relationship: "Maybe we'll live and learn/Maybe we'll crash and burn/Maybe you'll stay/Maybe you'll leave/Maybe you'll return/Maybe another fight/Maybe we won't survive/Maybe we'll grow, we never know." The song's title itself is taken from its chorus, "We're just ordinary people/We don't know which way to go/'Cause we're ordinary people/Maybe we should take it slow." Legend explained the song's lyrical content in the book Chicken Soup For the Soul: The Story Behind The Song: "The idea for the song is that relationships are difficult and the outcome uncertain. If a relationship is going to work, it will require compromise and, even then, it is not always going to end the way you want it to. No specific experience in my life led me to the lyrics for this song, although my parents were married twice to each other and divorced twice from each other. Their relationship is, of course, one of my reference points, but I didn't write this to be autobiographical or biographical. It is just a statement about relationships and my view on them."
Critics were overwhelmingly positive towards "Ordinary People", many of whom complimented the song's juxtaposition of simple stark piano and John Legend's vocal range. Entertainment Weekly noted "Ordinary People" as being both "the simplest" and "perhaps the most perfectly realized song" of the Get Lifted album, describing it as "an exquisite ballad" that is "both immediately familiar and intensely exotic." A review from The Guardian called the song "a real gem", and lauded further: "[I]t's not only sonically arresting but lyrically reflective. Refusing to tie up loose ends, Legend is ambivalent about the relationship described in the song, admitting that there's 'no fairy-tale conclusion'. Good for him." PopMatters was favorable towards the single, stating it "is representative of true talent." Jonathan Forgang, reviewing for Stylus magazine, stated: "'Ordinary People,' the first of the piano and voice ballads, is a bit more derivative than the earlier tracks but expertly performed. Legend's voice has a naked quality to it, warm and full without any of the drawbacks of virtuosity." The Times thought the song was full of "remorseful reflection" and said that "the album as a whole is a stunning advertisement for the less-is-more, from-the-soul approach, and Legend’s extraordinary voice (alternately angelic keen and cracked rasp) and piano-playing are equalled in quality by the depth of his songs."
On 14 April 2012, the song was performed on BBC's The Voice UK, resulting in some members of the UK public buying the track on iTunes. The song re-entered the Official UK Top 40 at number 27 on 15 April, and the following week climbed to number 4.
- Produced by John Legend
- Engineered by Anthony Kilhoffer, Andy Manganello and Michael Peters
- Assistant engineers: Mike Eleopoulos, Pablo Arraya and Val Brathwaite
- Mixed by Manny Marroquin at Larrabee Studios, LA
- Assistant mix engineer: Jared Robbins
- Vocals and piano by John Legend
Charts and certifications
- George Benson and Al Jarreau covered the song for their 2006 album Givin' It Up.
- Asher Book performs the song in the 2009 film Fame. Book's version is available on the soundtrack to the film.
- Aloe Blacc covered the song as Gente Ordinaria, singing it in Spanish.
- Becky Hill and Jaz Ellington covered the song on the first series of The Voice UK, which led to the song re-entering the chart at number 4.
- Mathai covered the song in the first live show of season two of The Voice US
- Candice Glover covered the song during the semi final (top 20) live show of the 12th season of American Idol.
- Nathan Sykes covered this song during his Sykes Secret Shows showcase on July 5, 2015
- "Ordinary People by John Legend Songfacts". songfacts.com.
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- Caroline Sullivan. "CD: John Legend, Get Lifted". the Guardian.
- "Music Reviews, Features, Essays, News, Columns, Blogs, MP3s and Videos - PopMatters". PopMatters.
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- "Login". timesonline.co.uk.
- "Official Singles Chart Top 100". officialcharts.com.
- "Official Singles Chart Top 100". officialcharts.com.
- Amazon.co.uk (6 June 2005). "Ordinary People: John Legend: Amazon.co.uk: Music". Amazon. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
- Juno Records (6 June 2005). "Ordinary People (CD): John Legend: Juno Records". Juno.co.uk. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
- Juno Records (6 June 2005). "Ordinary People (12"): John Legend: Juno Records". Juno.co.uk. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – John Legend search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
- "Archive Chart: 2005-06-18" UK Singles Chart.
- "John Legend – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for John Legend. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
- "John Legend – Chart history" Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for John Legend. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
- "Chart Track: Week 16, 2012". Irish Singles Chart.
- "Archive Chart: 2012-04-28". Scottish Singles Top 40.
- "Archive Chart: 2012-04-28" UK R&B Chart.
- "Archive Chart: 2012-04-28" UK Singles Chart.
- "British single certifications – John Legend – Ordinary People". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved October 7, 2015. Enter Ordinary People in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search
- Jones, Alan (April 14, 2014). "Official Charts Analysis: Kaisers enjoy 2nd week at No.1". Music Week. Retrieved October 7, 2015. (subscription required (. ))