Music Review: Ne-Yo

Since exploding on the music scene in 2004, R&B artist Ne-Yo has sung about a myriad of topics ranging from unrequited love to beautiful women at clubs; he even has a song about his attraction to angry women. He has collaborated with famous artists ranging from rappers The Game and Fabolous to iconic singer Michael Jackson, and has written countless hits such as Rihanna’s “Take A Bow” and “Unfaithful” and Beyoncé’s “Irreplaceable.” His solo career has flourished too, as his first two albums, “In My Own Words” and “Because of You” both reached number one on the Billboard top 200 charts. In his third album, titled “Year of the Gentlemen,” Ne-Yo once again creates a CD heavy with catchy hooks and beats, though at times he struggles to remain original through the songs. The album’s first track, “Closer,” is the album’s premier single. The song’s instrumental is immediately appealing, and Ne-Yo’s creative lyrics (“Turn the lights off in this place/ And she signs just like a star…Turn the music up in here/ I still hear her loud and clear”) solidify the song as a hit. The next track, “Nobody” is also quite catchy with some Michael Jackson-esque moments. The next track on the album, “Mad,” is much different. The subject matter abruptly changes from the previous tracks’ theme of seducing attractive women. Rather, “Mad” details an emotional fight with a heartfelt (albeit simplistic) chorus: “I know sometimes it’s gonna rain/ But baby can we make up now cause I can’t sleep through the pain/ Girl, I don’t wanna go to bed mad at you, and I don’t want you to go to bed mad at me.” It is easily one of the best songs on the album and strongly displays Ne-Yo’s versatility as an artist. This hit is followed by the album’s second single, an ode to strong, self-sufficient women entitled “Miss Independent.” The song features serene singing over a nicely laced instrumental consisting of a cadenced bass line and background piano. Continuing the collection of strong tracks is the emotional piano-ridden, “Why Does She Stay,” in which an apologetic Ne-Yo wonders why his lover has not left him. In classic Ne-Yo form, he sings simple lines (“She hates that I don’t do dishes/ Even though I mess up the most”) with fierce emotion and a melancholy harmony. However, “Year of the Gentleman” falls short in its second half. “Fade Into The Background” is forgettable, and “Part of the List” fails to maintain one’s attention. Furthermore, “Back To What You Know” fails to reach the potential offered by such a catchy guitar-ridden instrumental and a strong chorus. “Lie to Me” is quite dreadful, and even Ne-Yo’s harmonious singing cannot save the unmemorable lyrics and simplistic chorus. Only two songs on the second half of the album are praiseworthy. The first, “So You Can Cry,” features Ne-Yo narrating a break-up. He attempts to cheer someone up (offering to “go have calamari” at one point) before settling on “ask[ing] the clouds to bring the rain” so that the person can cry freely. Besides having a brisk feel, the song features smooth and sweet singing. In “Stop This World,” the final song, which manages to bring the album to an acceptable close, Ne-Yo compares being in love to being in heaven. The analogy, despite its banality, is surprisingly successful, and Ne-Yo’s voice carries the track to a higher level. Overall, “Year of the Gentlemen” is full of appealing and smooth-sounding songs. It falls short, however, in its repetitive feel. With only 12 tracks, the album leaves little room for error, and unfortunately, at times, Ne-Yo fails to deliver. Grade: 4