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2 May, 2007@12:00 am

    Singer/Songwriter Ne-Yo doesn’t need to sing. The Las Vegas based artist had made his money as a premier songwriter some time ago, but there always seems to be that nagging bug that wonders “What if that was me instead of (place your favorite singer Ne-Yo has written for here)??” His chance came when he dropped his Def Jam debut, In My Own Words to the tune of triple platinum worldwide. The singer/songwriter had arrived and taken the scene by storm. As Ne Yo stretched into acting roles and continued penning hits for huge acts (ex: Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable”) he began to craft his follow up album, Because Of You. Is the magic still there for Ne Yo to be a huge artist, or are we simply biding our time until the new Usher album drops?

    Because Of You is an album that oozes of Ne-Yo’s influences. When Jay-Z announces on “Crazy” that “Ne-Yo’s like Young Michael/I’m Quincy Hov,” it is evident where this album is headed. While some albums completely jack an era, Ne-Yo does a great job paying homage to 80′s R&B while implementing good songwriting throughout. The aforementioned “Crazy” gives off the energy of early Michael Jackson solo outings, as Jay-Z chips in just to lend a little support. He also channels the energy of Prince on “Sex With My Ex” with the electro drums racing around some edgy guitars. It provides the perfect backdrop to Ne-Yo’s brash sentiments of banging his ex lady. Although it sounds overt, it really isn’t and that’s the beauty of excellent songwriting - to imply without saying. It’s an art that Ne-Yo has taken seriously, and it echoes throughout.

    “Angel” is another instance of brilliant songwriting. Ne-Yo creates an unusual concept of loving an angel – not a girl - an “actual” angel. “I’m in love with an angel, but she don’t belong to me” carries on as the 80′s production takes hold of Ne-Yo as he delivers what can be termed a “beautiful” song. In this era of R&B it is indeed difficult to find great writing. “Leaving Tonight” features American-Idol-castoff-turned-Oscar-winning-Dreamgirl, Jennifer Hudson, as the two beef about a lady that gets her own ringtone in Ne Yo’s phone. It’s a cute song that allows Hudson to break out of her acting shell to show that her pipes are quite masterful. “Say It” is a swanky love song that is sure to drop the drawers with its sexual innuendo, while “Addicted” playfully allows Ne-Yo to explain his hunger for sex.

   Sure, Ne Yo doesn’t have the strongest vocals around. He may not be the best looking, best dancer, best singer but the dude really knows how to make an album. While “Go On Girl” sounds inexplicably like Beyonce’s “Irreplacable” and “Make It Work” is pretty bland, Because Of You is an album worth getting as it talks to the new generation while hearkening the R&B the old heads have been complaining about for the last decade. Will he replace Usher? Nah, but Usher needs to make room as Ne-Yo isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

  Mixtape D.L.
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