Ne-Yo is the Micheal Jackson of a new generation… except he writes his own songs, doesn’t really dance, and still has his original facial features. OK, so maybe he’s more like the Prince of a new generation… except without the tight pants, mystic symbols, and phallic guitar. What Shaffer Chimere Smith (a.k.a. Ne-Yo) does have in common with these two legends is a remarkable ability to craft songs so catchy even the hardest heads have to sing along. On his upcoming album Because of You, Ne-Yo serves up a platter of feel good songs that …
DJBooth Album Review
Complex samples and sweeping string orchestras are not Ne-Yo’s style; instead he relies on his sharp sense of melody and style. The title track and leading single Because of You is a perfect example of the kind of straightforward cut that has vaulted him to the front of the hit-maker line. Musically the track consists of a steady clap track, melodic piano line, and only small bass and guitar flourishes. Such minimal instrumentation doesn’t leave much to vocally hide behind, but Ne-Yo gladly accepts the spotlight. Christina Aguilera disease (the compulsion to hit every note in existence as often as possible) has afflicted scores of R&B singers, but Ne-Yo is apparently immune. His breathy and often falsetto vocal style is reminiscent of the King of Pop; he wants you to sing along with him, not stand in awe of his vocal power.
Ne-Yo is a storyteller at heart. Instead of lyrics that read like a list of every shiny object he owns, Because of You paints a picture of relationship struggles, late night hook-ups, and cheating hearts. Leaving Tonight is a classic back and forth duet with sensation Jennifer Hudson that details a man’s alleged cheating. It sounds like a scene from a movie, maybe even Dreamgirls 2. Leaving Tonight reveals one of the ironies of Ne-Yo’s songwriting; his tracks often sound better sung by women. Ne-Yo singing Irreplaceable comes across as borderline arrogant, but in the hands of Beyonce it’s a female empowerment anthem. The song Ain’t Thinking About You falls right in line with the Irreplaceable paradox. Ne-Yo capably carries the tightly crafted track, but you can’t help but think that Mary J. Blige would have absolutely killed it. Ne-Yo’s a good performer, maybe even very good, but his songs may need a more dynamically talented artist to make them great.
Because Of You isn’t a particularly danceable album; Ne-Yo doesn’t exactly pump out club bangers. The handful of songs that do get you moving
aren’t made for exclusive clubs, they’re for packed house parties and heated live shows full of people dripping sweat shoulder to shoulder. Sex With My Ex is a rock-accented song with a swaying and driving percussion guaranteed to get a crowd moving and features Ne-Yo doing a decent Prince impression, right down to his sweet than growling vocal style (take a wild guess what the song’s about). Addicted, another song that will have heads nodding is built around a funk-laced rhythm and blasting horns. The song’s a response to rumors that Ne-Yo has a sexual addiction, a rumor he denies with all the swagger and ego of a sex addict. These tracks are good enough, but Usher has nothing to worry about.
If you need a crossover smash you call Timbaland, for a club banger you hit up Pharell, and for an R&B anthem Ne-Yo’s your man. Because of You doesn’t have the depth to be an all-time classic, but it’s full of the kind of engaging melodies that make Ne-Yo one of the best in the game. Players may be bumpin’ Throw Some D’s out their speakers in the parking lot, but on the ride home alone they’re singing along to Ne-Yo, and there’s certainly no shame in that.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 04/23/07
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"All Because of You" (2007)
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