John Legend is holding on tightly to hope in the new song “Don’t Need to Sleep,” and his soulful voice is doing a lot of heavy lifting by adding depth to the lyrics. The single is about rising from the ashes and having hope that no obstacle is insurmountable.
Legend wrote the song to accompany a documentary he executive produced with actress and former United Nations special envoy, Angelina Jolie. The Waad Al-Katear film is an original documentary that tells the story of refugee athletes from Iran, Syria, South Sudan, and Cameroon.
The film’s synopsis reads, “Spanning a breadth of backgrounds, personal stories and Olympic sports, the film reveals their lives and hopes as they train to compete on the world stage, showing the fire and the drive of young people forced to leave their families, homes and countries of birth to build new lives out of nothing.”
Staying true to the material it draws inspiration from, “Don’t Need to Sleep” explores how hope can help anyone endure and even survive hardships.
“Bent but not broken / Down but not hopeless / Eyes are wide open, I know it / Don’t need to sleep to dream,” the singer-songwriter and Voice coach sings in the powerful track, which comes complete with a head-nodding rhythm that makes listeners connect to the song on a deeper level. This obstinacy to not be beaten by life’s challenges continues on in the second verse, where he sings, “I won’t let ’em feed me lines / I won’t let ’em fake my lie / I won’t let ’em write my story.”
The “story” is a close look at the players’ lives during the pivotal moment they arrive at the summer Olympics. “Their compatriots back home and their new communities in refugee camps watch as these determined young athletes fight for their place in the world,” the description continues. “This is their story of heart in the face of adversity, and most of all, hope for a better life.”
In an interview with Variety, Legend shared his joy to get to be a part of the inspiring project, saying, “I am honored to contribute an original song to ‘We Dare to Dream”. Waad Al-Kateab has created an important film and I hope “Don’t Need to Sleep” does the documentary and its extraordinary subjects justice.”