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Ne-Yo - Year Of The Gentleman

Ne-Yo, Year of the Gentleman

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

IT’S rare to find an R&B singer who’s so polite. But then Ne-Yo claims to have been inspired by the Rat Pack when writing his latest album, Year Of The Gentleman, a record that celebrates women, rather than belittling them.

At a time when the majority of mainstream hip-hop singers seem to be singing of strippers, rough sex and treating women as their whores, it’s refreshing to find an album that flips that ideology and marks a return to more traditional values. Hence, Ne-Yo’s latest collection of songs is very respectful and it’s worth hearing what he has to say.

If there’s a criticism of the album, it’s that many of the songs are too polite. There’s not enough zip to the album, which is very much based around slow-burning piano samples and softly-softly vocals.

The Las Vegas native certainly has a smooth voice – which flits between the youthful enthusiasm of early Michael Jackson and older performers such as Alexander O’Neal – but it’s not overly stretched and some of the songs are actually quite bland after a while.

Things kick off in familiar fashion with the hit single Closer ensuring that newcomers and fans will engage almost immediately. But while Closer is an upbeat slice of R&B, it’s a false dawn for the album, as the pace quickly slows.

That said, Nobody is another early highlight, when Ne-Yo really, really does come over all Billie Jean-era Michael Jackson and marries his excellent voice to some really snappy soul, complete with slick finger clicks and sparkling piano chords.

But Single, an ode to how Ne-Yo would make the perfect boyfriend, is – if anything – a little over-earnest and sets the tone for much of what follows.

Mad is similarly slow-paced and meaningful, tackling feelings and fighting over nothing, while Why Does She Stay turns the object of Ne-Yo’s affections into a saint-like figure who willfully puts up with a man who doesn’t do dishes or help around the home. Lyrically, it’s refreshing to hear a man admonish himself for his shortcomings, but you can have too much of a good thing.

The album is at its best whenever the pace is raised, as on Miss Independent, which replaces the piano with some snappy synths, and Back To What You Know, which drops in some acoustic guitars and a hand-clap back beat.

The odd error in judgement comes on songs such as Stop This World, when Ne-Yo extends his goodwill to global problems and ends up sounding like Michael Jackson on the similarly sappy Earth Song.

That said, there’s no denying that Ne-Yo establishes himself as an R&B songwriter worth listening to on Year Of The Gentleman with songs like Lie To Me, a lament on unfaithfulness, another of the songs to stand out. He’s a far better performer than the easy chart success of songs like Closer would suggest.

Download picks: Back To What You Know, Lie To Me, Nobody, Why Does She Stay, Miss Independent, So You Can Cry

Track listing:

  1. Closer
  2. Nobody
  3. Single
  4. Mad
  5. Miss Independent
  6. Why Does She Stay
  7. Fade Into The Background
  8. So You Can Cry
  9. Part Of The List
  10. Back To What You Know
  11. Lie To Me
  12. Stop This World
  13. What’s The Matter