by Eddie J., Contributing Writer
Likes: Cracks in Mr. Perfect, Let Me Love You, Stress Reliever, She Is, My Other Gun
Dislikes: Forever Now, Be the One.
Overall: Commercial, unadventurous lyrics, great production
After his 2010 commercial flub “Libra Scale,” R&B star Ne-Yo steers toward a more commercial and typical direction for his 6th album, R.E.D., as shown by his “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself)” single. However, if you’re expecting an album full of similar tracks, you’ll be highly disappointed…or extremely pleased, depending on your taste.
“R.E.D.” starts off with the somewhat morally conscientious “Cracks in Mr. Perfect,” on which talks about how everyone has flaws and he admits fame has affected him more negatively than he lets on. The song’s concept is a theme heard throughout the album, but it’s so thematically and musically different from the succeeding tracks, he even says “Enjoy the album” at the very end, implying that the TRUE album is to follow. As the album continues past the two singles “Lazy Love” and “Let Me Love You,” we begin to delve into an album of mixed signals. Forgettable songs like “Ms. Right” and “Forever Now,” serve as place-holders to make the project full length and are unoriginal in premise and musical composition, while songs like the well-produced “Don’t Make ‘Em Like You” (featuring Wiz Khalifa ) and “Jealous” (a lyrically intriguing, playful, mid-tempo love song that sounds like a fusion of Janet Jackson’s “China Love” and Mario’s “Let Me Love You”), are entertaining and keep the listener interested in the album’s development. Vocally, Ne-Yo does well; not spending much time in his upper register, he allows the middle and lower registers to keep us engaged. The vocal peak of the album is the song “She Is,” where he and Tim McGraw sing a country, yet soulful ballad. McGraw ironically outshines Ne-Yo in the duet, having a nice, raspy, soulful undertone that’s a breath of fresh air.
The album overall is very enjoyable for anyone who would like an eclectic array of R&B and pop music; however, Ne-Yo seems to have gotten so comfortable in his fame that he forgot to include the very element that made him distinctive in the first place: epic songwriting. This album doesn’t progress in terms of lyrical exploration. There are high moments, but in most cases the saving grace lies within the musical production. Shea Taylor, who produced “Mr. Perfect,” “Lazy ” and “Stress Reliever,” shined the most amidst all the producers, while Stargate (“Be The One,”“Forever Now”) was the most underwhelming with recycled usage of arpeggiators, typical sound effects and common-place chord progressions we’ve heard all year on pop radio. With a few gems and fillers in between, Ne-Yo lacked his spark of originality on this album and sacrificed creativity for excessive commerciality. If he could somehow find a balance between “Libra Scale’s” overwhelming creative explorations and “R.E.D.’s” expected commercial appeal, he would be able to give us a phenomenal album, but until that ground-breaking project comes, “R.E.D.” should hold his fan-base and newcomers over.