People can be a very transactional magazine, and its Sexiest Man Alive and Most Beautiful designations are usually the least well-concealed examples of that. Often, the honorees have something to promote or just did something that has them in the zeitgeist. John Legend, with his Vanity Fair cover and his social media presence and his forthcoming Christmas album, has both those things going for him. Fronting this issue provides a boost for the record; in return, the issue got a lot of promotion because John is judging The Voice alongside 2017’s honoree Blake Shelton, who passed the mantle to John — never mind that TECHNICALLY it was Idris Elba’s to hand off — during the show. (People seems very susceptible to The Voice. Adam Levine was the SMA in 2013, so… I guess that puts hot money for 2020 on incoming judge Nick Jonas.) Plus, John has a wife whom everyone knew would set social media aflame with her reactions to all of the above, which gives good press to both her husband and to People. It’s a perfect loop, and a perfect choice.
But all that said, it’s also… a perfect choice. John Legend is cute! John Legend is talented! John Legend is charming! John Legend is everywhere — he’s super-famous — and yet somehow I am not tired of his face! John Legend would delight daughters and grandmothers alike, which is basically what People hopes is the entire wingspan of its demographic! John Legend is not afraid to use his platform to advocate for what the political and social change he wants to see! And, real talk: The older I get, the sexier it is when a guy just really, really loves his family. And even if you’re not into John and Chrissy, you have to admit that John Legend really, really loves his family. There is an earnestness there, a total lack of cynicism — he’s not selling them out for an easy laugh on social media — that is supremely sexy, and in this day and age that’s really nice to see.
Below is the gallery of past covers. John is the first one ever to get two, one of which — Man Buttons His Jacket — is Jessica’s favorite; the other, Wet Man, Fully Clothed, Emerging From Water, is right out of The Big Book of Obvious Magazine Choices.
This is the first time People has chosen a man of color twice in a row; there have only been four, total, out of 34, and three of those came in the last four years (The Rock, Idris, and now John; the other is Denzel). That is… egregious, but here’s hoping it means People is finally starting to see how many beautiful different shades there are to sexiness.