Monday, September 15, 2008

Album Review: Ne-Yo - Year of the Gentleman (4.5/5)

When it comes today's contemporary male R&B, there are only a few artist who do the job and do it well--both in quality and commercial preferences. Ne-Yo, among those few, has it all--the voice, swagger and just the edge to produce great contemporary R&B songs. His last album, Because of You, was what really solidified me as a fan. The album wasn't groundbreaking, but it was slick set of solid R&B tracks that all just worked. The album scored the top 10 hit with its title track "Because of You" followed by the top 40 hit "Do You" and the personal favorite "Can We Chill."

Year of the Gentleman, really confirms Ne-Yo as the best in R&B--his R&B contemporaries such as Chris Brown, should really take note. Brown's latest album, Exclusive, seemed to attempt the same sophisticated direction as, Year of the Gentleman is doing. Unfortunately for Brown, his album was released before--his attempt fell short, lacking the swagger Ne-Yo so effortlessly caries.

In comparison, the new album isn't widely different from the last, they're both pretty urban soaked, only, Gentleman, as Ne-Yo's noted in numerous interviews, carries a more European pop vibe. This can be seen in the lead single "Closer" which rightfully opens the album, pulsing with layers of synth, strings and kinetic handclaps. It's possibly among his best songs overall, it also has a fantastic chorus. Following swiftly is "Nobody" a '70s soul, funk influenced numbers, pondering with a raw R&B soaked bassline.

The first slow jam of the album is "Single" which was originally recorded for the new, NKOTB album, The Block. Although I liked the track before, admittedly I do like the track better with Ne-Yo only. Without the bolded vocals the chrous does seem abit empty, but it's good nonetheless. It is among the best songs on here. The first ballad on here "Mad" perfectly positioning itself behind "Single" --keeping the consistency. It's your typical yet still pretty compelling ballad, mainly tracked by piano chords and recurrent hi-hats.

The best song on the album comes in the form of "Miss Independent" R&Bs never sounded better. It's almost as good as his breakthrough hit "So Sick" and "Sexy Love." Thumping a slick urban soaked bassline, which could appeal to both pop and R&B audiences. Following is the more downbeat "Why Does She Say" which takes a more classic approach to R&B. It's lack of a distintive melody, makes it a tad lackluster.

The synth, bass and piano built "Fade Into the Background" is probably my least favorite song on the album. It's just not that great--bland verses and lackluster chorus. It does indeed fade into the background, or the bulk of the album. Another song I don't like too much is "Part of the List" not because it's a terrible song--it's attempt at pop contemporary doesn't quite do it for me. Those are really the only duds of the album, everything else is almost immaculate.

The slightly stripped down "So You Can Cry" I like a lot, backed with clicks and strings. The heavily acoustic influenced, but more assertive than you'd think "Back to What You Know" is another jem.

The last 2 tracks "Lie to Me" and "Stop This World" are both ballads, good ballads at that. Giving a really nice ending to the album. Year of the Gentleman, is probably the best R&B album of the year, if not the most consistent. It's also Ne-Yo's best album to date, slightly edging out both, Because of You and his debut In My Own Words.

Best: Miss Independent, Closer, So You Can Cry, Nobody, Mad, Single, Lie to Me, Stop This World

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