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Music Review: Ne-Yo - 'R.E.D.'

Ear-Pleasing

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

By

Ne-Yo has said in the past that he's proud of how his music can successfully straddle the line between R&B and pop. And on his fifth studio album, R.E.D., he continues to straddle that line well, although this time out, his songs lean slightly more toward R&B. R.E.D., which stands for Realizing Every Dream and was released in the U.S. Nov. 6, 2012, is a smooth blend of musical genres. And not just contemporary R&B and pop, but Euro dance music and a little bit of Country, as well. After stumbling a bit success-wise with his brilliant but misunderstood 2010 concept album Libra Scale, Ne-Yo is back on the right track commercially with R.E.D.. Although the album isn't as adventurous lyrically or thematically as Libra Scale, it's definitely more ear-pleasing and fan-friendly.

Tender & Caring

Ever since his debut album, 2006's In My Own Words, Ne-Yo has been one of the more sensitive and gentlemanly singers in R&B. And his tender and caring sides remain on full display throughout R.E.D.. Even when he's singing about his extravagant lifestyle on the opening track -- including details about activities blowing large amounts of cash on champagne in the club, chasing women, wasting time in the studio when he should be recording new music -- he sounds more apologetic than braggadocios. "After this song, you're gonna love me for my honesty, or your're gonna hate me for being me, he sings on the confessional-type song, called "Cracks in Mr. Perfect." And on the song "Jealous," he sings about how the Green-Eyed Monster in him comes out when anyone or anything gets to spend a little time with his woman. "From the wind that blows by to the scent of your perfume to the sun that touches your skin on a Sunday afternoon, I'm jealous," he sings. "You've got me jealous of everything, everything that gets to know you."
One of the more impressive things about Ne-Yo as a singer is how his vocals are able to come across well no matter the musical genre. And although this particular album is more R&B-leaning than his previous efforts, elements of other genres do play a part here. One of the more surprising musical collaborations comes via the ballad "She Is," a duet with Country crooner Tim McGraw. On the song, Ne-Yo boldly goes down a musical path that Ray Charles, Brian McKnight, Lionel Richie and a handful of other R&B artists have in the past, although to be honest, "She Is" is a watered-down pop-Country that lacks the full-throated twang most people associate with the genre.

Style Hopping

The Euro-dance sound that Ne-Yo's been associated with in recent years is represented on a few tunes her too, most notably "Shut Me Down," "Let Me Love You (Until You Learn How to Love Yourself)" and "Forever Now." The Hip-hop-based tracks are among the album's best material, particularly "Don't Make 'Em Like You, which features the rapper Wiz Khalifa and "Should Be You," a song from the album's deluxe edition that features the rappers Fabolous and Diddy. But despite all the hopping through musical styles, Ne-Yo's at his best here when fully invested in R&B, such as on the sexual ode "Lazy Love," the seductive "Miss Right" and the sexy "Stress Reliever." As he's done in the past, Ne-Yo proves again that he's a musical Jack of all trades, able to seamlessly stride across numerous musical styles.
If there's any drawback to R.E.D., it's that some of the best songs ("Alone With You [Maddie's Song]," the aforementioned "Should Be You," are only available on the deluxe version. The standard edition has "only" 13 songs, but depending on which deluxe version you choose you can get an additional six full songs. And with that being the case, the deluxe edition -- any of them, iTunes, Target, whatever -- are a better buy than the standard version.
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