Ne-Yo - R.E.D.
Shaffer Smith, aka chart topping R&B maestro Ne-Yo has taken a sharp u-turn away from 2010’s concept album Libra Scale and its explicit lack of commercial appeal. R.E.D. instead sees his now trademark silky smooth vocals plastered over a new collection of radio-friendly hits that reads a little like the tracklist to the latest Now! compilation. It may at times feel inconsistent in its flow but taken on a case-by-case basis, it sees Ne-Yo competing in a whole new league.
Opening track ‘Cracks In Mr Perfect’ is an autobiographical narrative of the trials and tribulations of fame, in a style most reminiscent of Usher. Despite the droning chorus, Ne-Yo’s glossy vocals drip from the disc like honey. Earning his colours against a backdrop of bland current chart R&B, the aforementioned comparison is earned as we listen to an artist growing in musical maturity.
‘Let’s Go’ most likely sound tracked your summer, along with every other collaboration Calvin Harris has plastered his name over in the last 12 months. Its adrenaline-fuelled electronic beats lend a source of energy to the album, whilst the key-led ‘Shut Me Down’ throws in some more mid-tempo club beats. A cameo from Wiz Khalifa will satisfy the cool kids without compromising on artistic integrity - his verse in ‘Don’t Make ‘Em Like You’ is gritty yet still cohesive. Elsewhere, love is still on the agenda lyrically, with well trodden emotional clichés. However, the difference here is that Ne-Yo blags it - stick R.E.D. on in the car when you’re dropping your date home and you’ll probably wake up to the smell of bacon - and it's not your Mum doing the frying.
R.E.D. might not be the perfect album, but in the current pop climate it's a significant step up towards creating a cohesive, listenable whole.