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Ne-Yo: Because of You

Ne-Yo: Because of You

Label:Def Jam
Release Date:2007
Genre:R & B

By Jess Harvell | Posted 6/6/2007

At 24, Ne-Yo is only slightly older than most of current R&B's interchangeable postpubescent beefcake, but his songwriting and producing chops are already enough to push him beyond peers like hot-stepping but squeaky-voiced Chris Brown and the dancing-marionette erections of Pretty Ricky. (Ne-Yo penned Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable," for instance, which would earn him a line or two in R&B history if nothing else.) He was another R&B teenage autodidact except he rarely fronts as overly self-confident (as least in his musical abilities), and he sounds like he actually absorbed a lineage that stretches back before Blackstreet or Boyz II Men. Because of You plays like an occasionally chintzy--this is the era of cheap, keyboard-based beats, after all--but usually lush homage to the delectable moment before its creator was even born, when soul and R&B absorbed a little (or a lot) of disco's smooth glide.

With the ersatz horns of "Can We Chill" (the Hi Records house band on a ringtone budget), the self-titled debut single, and "Crazy," Ne-Yo most effectively indulges the nostalgic fondness of a '90s baby for shuffling, handclap-heavy '70s beats and pillowy soul signifiers: lowdown wah-wah guitar, snaking live bass lines, glitzy harp runs. But while the falsetto fillips and butch dips of his voice may awesomely approximate the skinny-hipped swagger of classic Prince on "Addicted," the blunt come-on of the chorus--"No I am not/ I'm not addicted to sex/ But girl I guarantee/ If you lay with me/ You just might be"--date-stamps Ne-Yo as a product of his hyper-horny, but still PG-13, R&B generation. Still, when was the last time an R&B song featured a harmonica? The lyrics may be more heavy pettin' than adult lovin'--"Open your mouth and tell me where you want me"? Eww--but Because of You is the first pop-soul album in eons where the grooves burn hot enough for folks well out of puberty.

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