How can anyone not love him now? John Legend, who won the Best Original Song Academy Award in 2015 for “Glory” from Selma, returned to the Dolby Theatre stage Sunday, February 26, blowing away the star-studded crowd by singing “City of Stars” and “Audition,” both Best Original Song–nominated tunes from Best Picture nominee La La Land. Watch a clip of his performance in the video above!
Tickling the ivories on his trademark piano, Legend, 38, first belted out the wistful Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone duet “City of Stars” from this year’s most nominated flick while surrounded by dancers. He then segued into Stone’s showstopping solo number, “Audition” — penned by nominated songwriters Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul — with a glittering backdrop of stars behind him. “Here’s to the fools who dream!” he bellowed before wrapping up with a few more bars of the first tune. Legend’s fellow musically inclined stars Justin Timberlake, Sting and Lin-Manuel Miranda performed the competing selections in the category.
“I just learned it this week!” Legend confessed to Ryan Seacrest during E!’s Live From the Red Carpet show before the broadcast. “It’s a challenge. I’m usually playing my own songs on television. But I’m gonna try and pull it off tonight.”
The 10-time Grammy winner executive-produced and stars in the critically lauded musical as Keith, a jazz band leader and former high school rival of Gosling’s character. Recounting his first meeting with the film’s writer-director, Damien Chazelle, Legend told Billboard in January: “He had me look at the script and then he mentioned that he thought I’d be a good Keith — someone who understood the point of view that Keith had and be authentic as a musician.”
During the 2015 broadcast, the “Love Me Now” crooner and rapper Common performed their winning track, “Glory,” from the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma. They later received a standing ovation while scooping up their trophies. “Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now,” Legend, who also picked up the Best Original Song trophy at the 2015 Golden Globes for the track, declared during his powerful acceptance speech that night. “When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on.”
Legend, a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, will next play noted African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass on the second season of WGN’s Underground, which he also executive-produces. Trump drew ire from civil rights leaders after remarking that Douglass is “somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice” at a Black History Month gathering in Washington, D.C., on February 1.
Luna, Legend’s daughter with wife Chrissy Teigen, will soon celebrate a milestone of her own: The tot turns 1 on April 14. “Every day I feel like is a milestone now, with her behaving in a new way every week,” the musician gushed to Us last October. “She likes it when I sing random made-up jingles to her when I’m changing her diaper or when I’m dancing around the house with her. I don’t know if she’s especially musical yet, but she’s surrounded by it. I think her name is very musical, so I just sing her name a lot of times.”