Ne-Yo’s fourth studio album, Libra Scale, is supposedly a concept album – a story of average guys having to choose between fame and power, and love, while becoming superheroes called upon to protect the planet. Or something like that.
Anyway, any trace of this story is completely lost on this reviewer. Maybe it shows up in the music videos for the album, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be in the music. Instead, it’s what you would expect from Ne-Yo. He’s working his way through a number of different women before finding love.
The other intention of Libra Scale was that it would pay tribute to Michael Jackson. This comes through loud and clear from the first track on. From the beats and tempo of the songs to Ne-Yo’s vocal inflections this sounds as much like an MJ record as anything since his death. Take that for what it’s worth. Is it a fitting homage or a blatant rip-off?
Ne-Yo’s past work has been highlighted with some absolutely stand-out R&B gems such as “So Sick” and “Do You.” While there is nothing quite that good here, there is some quality. “Genuine Only” probably comes closest to those previous hits. It’s a wonderfully melodic mid-tempo take on the realities of love. “Beautiful Monster” showcases Ne-Yo’s ability to combine a throbbing club beat with his knack, again, for melody and songwriting. “She’s a monster, beautiful monster, but I don’t mind,” he croons over the simmering track.
Libra Scale is light on ballads, but it closes with “What Have I Done,” an eerily Michael Jackson sound-alike track that finds Ne-Yo questioning what went wrong in his relationship with that aforementioned beautiful monster.
The first half of the album deals mainly with laying down the ladies. Songs like “Champagne Life,” “Makin’ a Movie” and “Know Your Name” are basically Ne-Yo living the life. He doesn’t exactly have a hard time finding a date. But though the subject matter is fairly coarse, it’s all done with slick production and a touch of class. On “Telekinesis,” Ne-Yo even finds it in his heart to sex not only his latest girl’s body, but also her mind. While you can understand why he probably thinks highly of himself, it’s a bit much to hear him singing, “My body is a paradise.” Is this really what women want to hear?
Libra Scale is not going to touch anyone’s deepest emotions, and it’s certainly not the intergalactic sci-fi soap opera Ne-Yo may have intended it to be, but it’s still well delivered. Whether or not you feel it will likely depend largely on how flattering you find this form of imitation.
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