Review : Ne-Yo - Libra Scale
RollingstoneNe-Yo's latest is a concept album about crime-fighting "R&B superheroes," complete with a femme fatale and a thing called the Libra Scale — a device that measures the weights of money, power, fame and love. If you find that hard to follow, no matter: Just listen to the music. Ne-Yo has crafted an epic full of party songs, beatific ballads and throbbing spy-movie club music. It's lavish disco; the songs are cinematic in scope but have the unshakable hooks of great pop. If that formula sounds like a certain recently deceased R&B superhero — well, that's no coincidence. The real "concept" here is: Michael Jackson tribute album. And a damn good one....full text
MusicAs a genre, R&B does not lend itself well to a 'concept album', so with Ne-Yo basing his latest on a short story it is easy to cringe with thoughts of R. Kelly's clunky Trapped In The Closet in mind. While it is not quite the quality of classics like Marvin Gaye's What's Going On or Here, My Dear, the tale of a conflicted superhero in love works far better than R. Kelly's laborious effort. The album loosely follows the tale of three garbage men given everything they want in return for protecting the city, so long as they do not fall in love. One of the three falls for Pretti Sinclair and must choose between riches and fame or love. The album succeeds by not bogging itself down in the details of the story, and instead plays out as a well-focused soundtrack as though the story were a film.
While the short story served as inspiration for the album lyrically, Ne-Yo has admitted that Michael Jackson's music also played a large part. There are many points on the album where it sounds as if the singer is auditioning for a Jackson biopic, and completely nails it. The opening "Champagne Life", gorgeously laying out the glamorous life the main character leads, and closing "What Have I Done?", dealing with the repercussions of his choices, are both silky r&b tunes that recall Jackson's mid-nineties hits like "Remember The Time". It is nearly impossible to distinguish the ad-libbed bits in the rubbery "Cause I Said So" and backing vocals of club-ready, synth-thrusting "Beautiful Monster" from those of the icon.
Thankfully, the uncanny resemblance comes and goes when it makes sense musically, and never detracts from the album. Using filmmaking metaphors for a pick-up line on "Makin' A Movie" and turning sci-fi sexy on slow jam "Telekenisis", "Let me touch you without touching you", the album consistently delivers lyrical goodies. A Caribbean beat in slow motion over sexy, cool strings and horns turn "Know Your Name" into a sweet, silky come-on. Ne-Yo strikes a solid balance between up-tempo numbers, like the melodic, bongo-laced "One In A Million", and sultry ballads, like funky seventies throwback "Crazy Love", and never misses a beat....full text
PopmattersIn Ne-Yo’s latest video for “One in a Million”, the singer begs and pleads with a woman who is made out to be his object of affection by singing sultry words (“You’re so one in a million / You are / Baby you’re the best I ever had” is a chorus that would make any female skip a breath) and by displaying dance moves smoother than a Caramello candy bar; and performing out of this world tricks (at one point, he somehow floats a rose through the air, landing it in front of her face). It’s cute, really. And even though she ultimately runs to a cab after she watches him dance with another woman, you can’t help but root for the R&B crooner, even if he is stepping out on this proposed fed-up female.
The entire sequence is a bit indicative of Ne-Yo’s career, actually. If you fancy yourself a contemporary pop/R&B fan on any level, you absolutely must root for him. Why? That’s almost impossible to answer, actually. Is it the sexiness he works so seamlessly into each and every track he has lent his voice to? It could be. Is it the God-given knack for a pop sensibility that runs as an undercurrent through most every song you find? That could be, too. Or is it that wrinkle-free voice that almost seems unnatural at times because laying it on top of a brilliant groove can sound so close to perfection, any listener can subconsciously make grand comparisons that may or may not be warranted? That’s possible, as well.
Whatever it is, the reasons simply don’t matter when it comes to the Las Vegas native’s latest effort, Libra Scale. Because, as is the case with most successful artists, what matters most is the end product. And what the end product here is yet another magnificent release by an artist who has seemingly made it impossible for himself to fail. Album after album. Hit after hit. This guy may have had the most impressive career of any male R&B singer over the last five years, all while somehow still managing to fly under the radar of superstar status.
The fun begins with the album’s first track—and quite possibly its best—the “so good, it needs to be sent to radio now”, future hit “Champagne Life”. The antagonistic backbeat supplies the perfect tone to a song that is sure to be blasted in a zillion clubs at one point throughout the night of December 31. Maybe the most fun Ne-Yo has ever sounded, it’s literally impossible to not clap with the man after he commands any potential listener to put his or her drink down to do so at the four-minute mark. As if that’s not enough, the sugary falsetto hook he provides at the end of each chorus promises never to leave your head, even if you asked it politely....full text
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