Ne-Yo Is Still ‘R.E.D.’ Hot

Courtesy of Motown Records

In his fifth studio release, entitled “R.E.D” (an acronym for “Realizing Every Dream”), Ne-Yo reminds us exactly why he’s one of America’s favorite gentlemen, serving up a smooth dose of his usual R&B fare with a few twists and a decidedly maturing sound.

The album opens with “Cracks in Mr. Perfect,” which features disarmingly honest lyrics amid a sonorous back beat. He sings about overspending his mountains of cash in the club, skirt-chasing instead of working on his music, and even having unprotected sex with a virtual stranger.

Despite opening with a song focusing upon flaws, this album is almost entirely bereft of them. Songs like the languidly synth-laden “Lazy Love”; the hip-hoppy “Should Be You” featuring Diddy and Fabolous; and the up-tempo Wiz Khalifa collaboration “Don’t Make Em Like You” have the potential to be heavy-hitting tracks, but blend among the ranks of Ne-Yo’s quality R&B, dance music fusions.

One of the few low points in the album, though, comes with “Stress Reliever,” which has all the makings of Ne-Yo’s signature sexy slow jam, with a candle-lit-ambient backbeat and that smoother-than-smooth voice. However, the lyrics falter here, stepping off the edge of sensual and into the dangerous void of T.M.I. When Ne-Yo pitches the set-up “She tells me things like …” we know we’re headed into dirty territory, but as references to a “lollipop” among other things pop up, so does the urge to skip to the next song.

Despite this raunchy detour, many of Ne-Yo’s song choices share a strong theme of love — the lasting kind. Among them is “Unconditional.”

Among the slew of slow-jams and dance anthems comes “She Is,” an absolute gem of a song about an unexpected love. Just as unexpected are the strong country undertones of this track, which manages to steal the heart with its soft, guitar-driven tone and the seamless playoff between the voices of Ne-Yo and Tim McGraw. Yes, you read that correctly, this is a collaboration between country star Tim McGraw and R&B king Ne-Yo, and it is strangely flawless.

In the same vein of pleasant surprises is “Alone With You (Maddie’s Song),” a song dedicated to Ne-Yo’s daughter Maddie Grace. The track has an undeniably Beatles-esque tone and features sickly sweet lyrics, all while showing off Ne-Yo’s golden pipes brilliantly.

“Maddie’s Song” can only be found on the deluxe version of the album, but you should check out this solid release. It has all the right moves, showing off Ne-Yo’s versatility while giving fans a healthy dose of the silky-smooth, swag-drenched, fedora-topped crooning they know and love.

Rating: 4.5/5