Last night saw R&B force Ne-Yo preview his latest collection of hits – a set he has christened ‘R.E.D’.
A stylized acronym for ‘Realizing Every Dream’, the LP is important for more than serving as the star’s 5th studio album.
His last outing ‘Libra Scale’, spawned hits, yet little in the way of commercial nor critical acclaim. Blessed with a fresh and firmer slate by way of his new deal at Universal Motown (where he also serves as SVP of A&R), the 32 year old is gearing up to release the set (his first on the label) on September 18th.
Assembling a who’s who of the British media in Central London, the hitmaker provided a 7-track taste of the opus – which was preceded by a glowing endorsement by Ethiopia Habtemariam – the Senior Vice President of Motown Records.
Our exclusive preview of ‘R.E.D’ awaits after the jump…
1) ‘Let Me Love You’ – a titillating slice of melodic Pop, the cut has been serviced as the LP’s first UK single. And is it blared, full volume, over the speakers, the rationale for that decision was re-affirmed and then some. Easily the album’s standout number and “the” cut that best exemplifies Ne-Yo’s desire to fuse his Pop podium with his Urban core.
2) ‘The Cracks In Mr. Perfect’ – this Island/Reggae flavoured confessional was initially confirmed as the title of the album. However, according to the hitmaker, upon reconsideration, he didn’t want to root the entire record around a track that was so lyrically raw; one that would seem like he was complaining about fame. Still, the cut – which sees crooner lay bare his mistruths and desire to shine brighter than the next – makes for a compelling listen. “After this song, you’ll love me for my honesty or hate me for being me” he sings. Soaked in his truth, the track is a must-hear.
3) ‘Lazy Love’ – Renown for his uncanny ability to construct and layer “melody”, few other instances showcased this better than this song. Rolled out as the first Urban single from album, ‘Love’ sees Ne-Yo re-engage with his R&B audience – resulting in one of his best singular efforts in years.
4) ‘Should Be You’ – Explaining that he didn’t just want to touch upon genres superficially, the singer taps into the all-too-forgotten Blues component of R&B here. A stirring mid-tempo (which production-wise favours Mario Winans’ ‘I Don’t Wanna Know)’, ‘Should Be’ lyrically relays a narrative of being emotionally downtrodden. Why? Because while with “the replacement”, one can’t shake thoughts of the prior.
5) ‘She Is’ – Delving back to an era when “Pop” didn’t almost exclusively denote Dance, this embraces its literal meaning of Popular music. And while the mainstream charts will often blur facts, it doesn’t get much more popular than “Country” – just ask Taylor Swift. Alas, this guitar-driven number was intro’ed as being birthed from the singer’s love for genre. A love so pronounced that he desires to perform the track at the CMT Music Awards one day. Don’t laugh, stranger things have happened!
6) ‘Alone With You’ – Perhaps the most talked-about track of the night, ‘Alone’ didn’t earn such honour by way of its lyrics or production. Instead, it was the narrative behind it that resonated most.
Recorded for initial inclusion on ‘Libra Scale’, the piano led number boasts a personal significance for the singer. For the day he first brought daughter Madeline home from the hospital, she wouldn’t stop crying until her mother hit ‘RANDOM PLAY’ on her iPod and this track came on. Immediately she stopped. A trend, he says, continues to this day. Sweet stuff.
7) ‘Unconditional’ – Synth-heavy and pulsating, this makes no apologies for being an outright Dance cut. Instead, Ne-Yo aims to make his mark dabbling in a genre he says is so “beat driven” that he (as a vocalist) becomes almost inconsequential. How? By marrying it with meaningful lyrics and melody aplenty. The results here aren’t bad at all.
While there remain 4-5 open slots on the final tracklisting, it’s clear with ‘R.E.D’ that Ne-Yo is serving up a musical medley, which boasts a sweet treat for the diverse array of fans he has amassed since bursting onto the scene almost seven years ago.