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Ne-Yo: Year of the Gentleman

Ne-Yo: Year of the Gentleman

Label:Def Jam
Release Date:2008
Genre:Hip Hop/Rap

By Michaelangelo Matos | Posted 10/1/2008

Somebody has to be the new Babyface, and judging from his third album, Ne-Yo wants the job worse than anyone else alive. Better yet, the Las Vegas-raised writer/producer/singer earns the title--and goes beyond it. On the surface, Year of the Gentleman is butter-smooth R&B of the sort your mom would ask you to help her download, and the feel is very early '90s, the point when Latin music inched its way into both urban and suburban mainstream pop. But if a bit of callowness was part of Ne-Yo's prior charm before, it has all but vanished here. Where 2007's Because of You was spare and sweet, Year of the Gentleman is moody, pensive, and unexpectedly rich--not least lyrically, where Ne-Yo has clearly been thinking hard about certain emotional realities.

Take "Miss Independent," whose chorus goes, "She's got her own thing/ That's why I love her." That's fairly standard-issue praise-the-queens stuff as far as R&B goes--and along with the lightly layered synth strings and clip-clopping beat, it would be fine on its own. But he's being quite literal: He needs someone with as little time on her hands as he has. "Fade Into the Background" depicts the awkwardness of running into the one who got away at a social function. Most desperately plaintive of all is "Why Does She Stay," a ballad in which Ne-Yo wonders, unsparingly, what exactly his woman sees in him. All of this soul-searching gives unexpected weight to the album's soaring closer, "Stop This World," a big ol' happy ending ("I don't deserve you/ I've never felt a love strong enough to/ Stop this world from spinning") that sounds completely earned--a tour de force, like the album itself.

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