On his recent trip to London ahead of the release of hisnew album, R.E.D., Arkansas born Grammy winning R&B star Ne-Yo sat down with SoulCulture TV to discuss his views on bringing soul and substance to Dance music, his appreciation for Country music and storytelling, and experiencing unconditional love in a new way through fatherhood.
Having first dived into the dance market with the 2008 multi-platinum hit “Closer,” from his Year of the Gentleman LP, Ne-Yo observes, “the thing that attracts people to the music is the music – not so much the singer on the song, or even the lyric… but the music part…”
“So with that being said, of course more attention would be paid to making sure the rollercoaster of the music is right as opposed to putting some meaning into the lyric,” he explains. “My thing is, if I can take this music that has all of this depth and excitement and emotion in it and put a lyric with the same depth and meaning and emotion on top of that, it’s win/win.”
Maintaining lyrical substance whilst crossing into the beat-driven dance arena is important for Ne-Yo, but he concedes, “I can understand why another person probably wouldn’t take the time, because like I said the average person listening to dance music isn’t listening to the lyrics anyway; they’re just waiting on an opportunity to do this” – pumping his fists into the air.
“But with me, it doesn’t make sense to me to do a song that doesn’t mean anything. Even a song about sex needs to mean something – there’s gotta be some kind of depth to the record somewhere.”
The depth Ne-Yo admires is often to be found in Country music, where relatable stories are in abundance – and having collaborated with Louisiana hailing country star Tim McGraw on his Emotional Traffic album earlier this year, McGraw returns the favour appearing on R.E.D.‘s Country-leaning duet “She Is.”
“It’s one of the last genres of music where storytelling is kind of staple,” Ne-Yo reflects. “I feel like that’s one of the things people dig about my music; there’s always a story being told – a beginning, a middle, an end.
“I love Country music because it’s not taboo to bare your soul, it’s not taboo to not be the coolest dude, to not be the guy with all the girls, to not be the guy with all the money – it’s ok for you to be a ‘regular person’.
He reasons that Country’s down-to-earth approach keeps consumers genuinely interested; “I feel like that’s the reason when this whole downloading stuff was taking money out of everybody’s pockets, the country music industry didn’t budge. They’re still going out and buying a record, they’re still going to the store and buying a CD, they’re not stealing nothing. There’s just more love over there, because they’ve made it ok for you to not be what the world describes as beautiful or perfect. You can just be you, and it’s cool that you’re you.”
“Whereas in R&B, we have a tendency to be a little judgemental of people that don’t look the way that we want them to look, or sound the way we want them to sound, or have the amount of money we want them to have or whatever the case may be. It makes it to where, I feel like, as a consumer, ‘hell no I ain’t gonna buy it if I don’t got to – you clearly don’t give a damn about me, all you care about is a watch on your wrist. Why should I spend my money on you, you clearly got enough,’ – unintentionally I think that’s what we do to our consumers, which honestly completely validates them stealing it.”
Watch our interview below, and subscribe to SoulCulture TV for more.
Filmed & Edited by Versetti + Fabian Thomas for SoulCulture TV