Deep Album Cuts Vol. 31: Ne-Yo

Ne-Yo is releasing his 6th album, Non-Fiction, this week, so I felt like looking back a bit on his career so far. He came out of the gate strong a decade ago, writing a Hot 100 chart-topper for Mario, getting signed as an artist and very quickly scoring his own #1 single and #1 album. Since then he's gradually slid from prominence, although he's done a good job of keeping a foot in pop music even as pop has withdrawn from most R&B stars (and I'm fine with this really -- his voice glides really beautifully over dance beats whereas the EDM hits by Usher or Chris Brown sound strained and forced by comparison).

He's always kind of had an anachronistic vibe to me, though, like he was a Babyface or Lionel Richie who never totally fit in with the post-R. Kelly era, even though he clearly grew up worshiping Michael Jackson just as much as Chris Brown or anyone else. He managed to make his earnest nice guy energy work for him for a while, though -- I was especially fond of "Bust It Baby Pt. 2," the hit that made great use of the contrast between hilarious disgusting Plies and smooth sweet Ne-Yo. But he's written so many dynamite singles, both for himself and others, that sometimes his albums feel like listening to him just write when he's off the clock, in good and bad ways.

Ne-Yo Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Get Down Like That
2. Ain't Thinking About You
3. Fade Into The Background
4. Genuine Only
5. Jealous
6. It Just Ain't Right
7. Leaving Tonight featuring Jennifer Hudson
8. So You Can Cry
9. Makin' A Movie
10. Shut Me Down
11. Let Me Get This Right
12. Sex With My Ex
13. Back To What You Know
14. Know Your Name
15. She Is featuring Tim McGraw
16. Sign Me Up
17. Make It Work
18. Nobody
19. What Have I Done?
20. Alone With You (Maddie's Song)

Tracks 1, 6, 11 and 16 from In My Own Words (2006)
Tracks 2, 7, 12 and 17 from Because of You (2007)
Tracks 3, 8, 13 and 18 from Year of the Gentleman (2008)
Tracks 4, 9, 14 and 19 from Libra Scale (2010)
Tracks 5, 10, 15 and 20 from R.E.D. (2012)

I usually use weight each album based on how much I like it on these playlists. But for once, I decided to use an equal number of tracks from each album, and just rotate through the catalog four times, because it's really hard for me to pick favorites in Ne-Yo's discography. Every album is really good but not quite great. I loved In My Own Words when it dropped, but in retrospect "Get Down Like That" is probably the only song up to the quality of the singles. I ignored Because of You at the time because I hated the singles, but it's got some joints. Year of the Gentleman was the album that got the best reviews and an Album of the Year nod at the Grammys, but I never thought it was really any better than his others. Libra Scale surprised me with how decent it was after the advance singles were terrible. And R.E.D. really just proved that he's always gonna deliver quality work whether he's a big star or not.

There's some good gems in here, even if there's not much that I think could've been a "So Sick"-level hit. "It Just Ain't Right" has a cool sample of Switch's "I Call Your Name," just a few months before "Throw Some D's" flipped it very differently. "She Is" is as worthy a genre-blending Tim McGraw collaboration as Nelly's earlier hit "Over and Over." The only deep cut of Ne-Yo's dance pop side that appears on one of his albums is "Shut Me Down," which is pretty dope and backs up my general support of him doing that kind of thing now and again. "Makin' A Movie" and "Make It Work" spin quality songs out of the signature catchphrases of, respectively, DJ Khaled and Tim Gunn.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
« Home | Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »

Post a Comment