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Ne-Yo

Because of You

(Island Def Jam; US: 1 May 2007; UK: Available as import)

Ne-Yo Nears Perfection

How’s this for a resume?


You have collected royalty checks from your work on writing pop sensation Rihanna’s super-duper hit “Unfaithful”, the only song Mario may ever be remembered for: “Let Me Love You”, and Beyonce’s public jab at your boss, the enormous woman power mega chart-topper “Irreplaceable”.


While that is only a miniature portion of the work you have done, what may be more impressive is what you are about to do. And what is that? Well, as rumor has it, you have just inked a deal to work with the Black Eyed Peas’ Will.i.am on one of a generation’s most important musical figure’s next album, Michael Jackson.


Oh, and that pop diva that recently shaved her head and spent every other day in rehab? She has already called on you to finish what could be her first single on what may be the most anticipated pop album in a decade.


You want more?


OK. Your debut album, In My Own Words, sold over 300,000 copies in its first week; quite the feat for today’s illegal downloading-driven music industry. And in addition to all of those artists and songs mentioned earlier, you have had the opportunity to work with such icons as Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Usher, and Enrique Iglesias, all of which have credited you in some way for writing at least one song within their extensive and respective catalogs.


Sounds like a dream doesn’t it?


Well, that dream has been a reality for one Shaffer Chimere Smith. Many know him as a guy called Ne-Yo. And while all of those credentials and accomplishments seem as though they could never be matched, he sure does a good job at giving them a run for their money on his latest effort, Because of You.


On Because of You, Ne-Yo relishes in his disgust for a sophomore slump by fighting back with an album that leaves his first solo effort so far in the dust that songs like “Sexy Love” and “So Sick” seem like generic, one-hit wonder R&B tunes that were forgotten even quicker than the artist.


The album’s title track and first single “Because of You” is the official first mega-hit of the summer. Or at least should be. It’s upbeat modern-day funk tempo, beautifully melodic backdrop and love-sick (in a good way) vocals makes “Because of You” the perfect lead single off of an album that is filled with number one hits.


“Addicted” is the best song that didn’t make it on to Prince’s 2004 comeback album Musicology. The song’s horns and grove-happy feel give it the type of sexual undertone the Purple One made a career off of. Not to mention the forgiving lie that Ne-Yo claims during the chorus that he “is not addicted to sex.” If he just didn’t sound so much like Mr. Nelson when he said it, it could be believable, even though it’s that sultry suggestion that makes the song so good.


The sexual innuendos, or comparisons, don’t stop there either. “Sex with My Ex” just had to be the b-side to “When Doves Cry”. The constant moans filling in the funk-you-up background can make any room ten degrees hotter than it was before the song came on. Combine that with lines like “Ain’t nobody do it better,” and “Ain’t nobody stroking like me,” and what you have is a sexual undertone so tangible it becomes borderline uncomfortable to listen to.


And his collaborations are better too. On his first effort, Ne-Yo only gave the mic away once, and it was to Peedi Peedi on “Stay”. Even though that made for a great song to kick off what could only be described as a mediocre album by comparison to his latest, it was still only Peedi Peedi, and it was still just one verse.


On Because of You, two absolute giants, Jay-Z and Jennifer Hudson, join Ne-Yo in his quest for R&B perfection. Hova’s verse on “Crazy” sprinkles this must-be single with lines about breaking the Da Vinci Code and pulling words out of the air like Bluetooth. Mr. Carter’s 30-second cameo alone makes this album a must have for anyone who has ever as much as thought about hip-hop or R&B.


Then on “Leaving Tonight” Hudson proves all American Idol lovers wrong once again by consistently and delicately rising throughout the song until her talent and vocal prowess boil over to make an awfully huge, yet so-sweet mess. Her and Ne-Yo’s chemistry throughout the entire track becomes so palpable that one would have to suggest either a full collaboration album or perhaps an impending engagement.


Because of You might end up being the best R&B album of the year. And considering how much better this effort is than his first, the only way that could seemingly change would be if he decided to release another album before 2008 begins. After all, it did take him less than a year to write this masterpiece of a record.

Rating:

Colin McGuire is a columnist and a Music Reviews Editor here at PopMatters, as well as an award-winning blogger and copy editor for the Frederick News-Post in Frederick, Maryland. He has worked in newspapers for five years, writing columns, editing stories and trying to make sure the medium doesn't completely fall off the Earth anytime soon. You can follow him on Twitter @colinpadraic.


Tagged as: ne-yo | popmatters pick | r&b
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