Listening To The Fans


The world today has changed from what it was several years ago. Today, everyone seems to find it necessary to multi-task at all times. I have heard many friends say “there just are not enough hours in the day for all the things I need to accomplish”. We all are now equipped with smartphones, tablets, laptops, several e-mail accounts, and a plethora of social media accounts and all require constant attention. If you own a business, amplify all of this times ten. The entertainment industry is no different as musicians of today find themselves very busy working to complete several tasks daily. Especially those who are multi-talented. A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to feature Usher Raymond, one artist who greatly defines the word “multi-talented”. This week I have the honor of featuring another all-around entertainer: Ne-Yo.

Ne-Yo is certainly an artist who wears many hats in more ways than one. He is known for his proclivity of wearing many different types of hats while performing or making public appearances. However, the thirty-five year old performer is also known for a variety of occupations in the music industry.  Primarily listed as a singer and songwriter; Ne-Yo also is a dancer, record producer, actor, and Senior Vice President of A & R of Motown Records where he serves as a producer and mentor to the label’s artists, as well as seeking out and signing new talent to the label. Amazingly, Ne-Yo does all the above quite well while managing his own very successful solo music career.

Shaffer Chimere Smith was born October 18, 1979, in Camden, Arkansas but moved to Las Vegas, Nevada after his parents separated. It was there that young Smith got his start developing his musical talent. The stage name “Ne-Yo” was coined by Big D Evans, a producer with whom Ne-Yo once worked, because Evans claimed that Ne-Yo sees music as Neo sees the matrix. Like many before him, Ne-Yo got his start in the music business as a songwriter. His breakthrough came when he wrote “Let Me Love You” for American singer Mario. The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and later stayed at the top spot for nine weeks. The successful début lead to an informal meeting with Def Jam label head L.A. Reid. After performing for record executives Ne-Yo was signed to a record deal by then CEO, Jay Z.

Ne-Yo has collaborated with many other artists aside from his own material. Rihanna’s top-ten singles “Unfaithful,” “Russian Roulette,” and her number-one hit “Take a Bow,” and Beyoncé Knowles’ Billboard Hot 100 number-one single “Irreplaceable,” which stayed at the top of the chart for ten consecutive weeks are just a couple of the examples of his success. January 27, 2015 Ne-Yo released his sixth solo studio album titled Non-Fiction. After listening to Non-Fiction I think Ne-Yo continues to have the recipe for successful music. He should continue to be a mainstay at the music award shows for years to come.

I understand that Ne-Yo promised with Non-Fiction to return to more of the R&B sound that established him early in his career, instead of much of the EDM style songs found on previous albums. Many reviewers tend to think the sound is uneven because Ne-Yo still uses some of the sounds typically heard in EDM and dance music. That may be true but the songwriting is stellar, like we are accustomed to hearing from Ne-Yo.

When I think about modern songwriting, I always listen to the music first and then the lyrics. What is the chord progression? How does the melody move? Does the song tell an effective story? That last question is the most interesting because many people are not impressed by some of our modern songs. Many of our modern songwriters use graphic language and straightforward words to tell a story. However, the writer still might give us a great song, even with lyrics that require parental discretion. Ne-Yo, like many of the modern-day songwriters, draws a lot of creativeness from his personal life. At this stage in his career he has experienced more complexities of life that will add more depth to his songs. The 32-year-old singer shared the details of his new album in an interview by Amy Davidson, according to Digital Spy. Interestingly, for Non-Fiction Ne-Yo chose to reach out to fans via social media for inspiration for songs. “Every song on this album is or was inspired by a true story. All of these stories happen to be 100% true, some of which are mine. It’s everything from the breakup of me and the mother of my two kids to just dealing with what it is to be Ne-Yo nowadays,” says the singer/songwriter.

Most of Ne-Yo songs throughout the years have followed a familiar formula of understanding and celebrating women. This might change for the current album. There was one fan who wrote via Twitter, sharing about an encounter with a cunning and opportunistic woman. “He wrote and I quote: ‘She just took absolute joy in destroying my relationship!’ Basically talking about this woman that he met seduced him into doing what it is that she wanted and using the fact that he did what she wanted to destroy his current relationship,” says the 32-year-old singer. This story inspired Ne-Yo to write the song ‘Run’, which also featured the rapper schoolboy Q.

Yes, Non-Fiction is a little different from other Ne-Yo albums. It demonstrates his willingness to listen to his fans.

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