Consistency is definitely key when it comes to Shaffer Smith, aka Ne-Yo. Whether it’s his thought-provoking songwriting capabilities, comfortable harmonies, or his effortless ability to make hit record after hit record, his success rate is one that not too many in the music industry can contend with.
Switching labels, the Arkansas-born singer/songwriter has finally jumped the Def Jam ship and has now found a new home in the form of the legendary Motown label. Releasing his fifth studio album R.E.D., which is an acronym for Realizing Every Dream, things seem to have come a long way for Ne-Yo since the disappointing commercial reception he received for 2010’s Libra Scale.
Already with a UK number one single featured on the album – “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself)” – R.E.D. is an album full of promise. With lots of highs and a few lows, most of all it sees a return to the type of songwriting his fans know he’s capable of.
Getting his mac moves on, the smooth and sophisticated “Stress Reliever” hears Ne-Yo describe his lady and how her wanting some of that good loving has her stealing moments with the singer. Slow and seductive, the track rides out over a slice of production that hears it build like an unhurried musical construction site. The inclusion of an on/off synth during the hook also adds to the track’s overall appeal.
Ne-Yo is without doubt the singer who can lay claim to the fact that he pretty much started the current R&B/Dance movement. While some deem this a negative stroke as far as the R&B genre goes, the fact that he helped usher in a new wave of genre-kicking youngsters, who at times create some appealing music, is a blessing for the genre. However, none of them can do it quite like Ne-Yo does.
Teaming up with Calvin Harris, “Let’s Go” has been ringing in the ears of listeners for a little while now; and in all honesty it’s a catchy record that when played in the right setting invokes an undeniable sense of happiness. Another dance-inspired moment captured on R.E.D. includes the Emanuel Kiriakou and Andrew Goldstein produced “Shut Me Down.” Equally as catchy as “Let’s Go,” it’s just another track you come to expect from Ne-Yo and his club hopping ways.
Not as appealing however, both “Forever Now” and “Be The One” play like R&B records that don’t know whether or not they want to be R&B records. Each of them begin like typically loved up ballads, but as the tracks roll on they transform into a confused state of trance. As outlined above, Ne-Yo is the man when it comes to bridging the gap between dance and R&B… but he doesn’t always get it right.
R.E.D.’s best moments come when Ne-Yo teams up with No I.D. on the ride-or-die chick anthem “My Other Gun,” where the strengths and positive traits of the perfect woman are investigated. There’s also the Fabolous and Diddy collaboration – “Should Be You,” reminiscent of something that Mario Winans might have put out in the early 2000’s. Hearing a cohesively pure R&B record take shape is a beautiful thing. Any fan of what the genre used to sound like will find themselves drawn towards this particular track.
The album’s piece de resistance, however, hits listeners the second the album begins. “Cracks In Mr. Perfect” is what honest songwriting is supposed to sound like. Comparable to Eminem’s final battle verse in the movie 8 Mile – where he gets the jump on his opponent by announcing everything in rap form that could be used to belittle him – Ne-Yo outlines his imperfections. Purposely situated as the album’s first record, he informs fans that he’s not perfect and that people do in fact make mistakes.
Admitting that he’s got issues with spending copious amounts of money in the club, as well as an addiction to chasing girls, the song itself is one that many can relate to. Whether you’re a playa or just a guy who has his own imperfections, Ne-Yo has crafted the perfect record as far as addressing honesty goes; “After this song you’re gonna love me for my honesty/ Or you gonna hate me for being me.”
So as it stands, Ne-Yo is back on target with R.E.D.. The tracklisting could have been cut ever so slightly, and a few of the featured records could have been repositioned, but other than that it stands out as another good piece of work from the dance-inspired crooner.