Album review: Ne-Yo - Year of the gentleman

Music review: Ne-Yo - Year of the gentlemanAward winning singer and songwriter Ne-Yo is back on the scene (not that he ever left it!) with a third studio album titled Year of the gentleman. Apparently the album was named in homage to those who influenced Ne-Yo's music and style; namely Sammy Davis Jr and Frank Sinatra. Only turtle head Ne-Yo knows why, because nothing on this album reflects that. This album should of just been named 'Year of the same old shit', because frankly that's what this album is: the same old stuff Ne-Yo has been doing since day one, with the odd stand out track.

The problem with Year of the gentleman right off the bat is that it's just too mundane. As hot as "Closer" is, it lacks impact on a first listen and doesn't win you over straight away. And from there on out the sound is far too bland to the point where everything bleeds into one. The songs all being about similar subject matters and being sung in the same fashion almost doesn't help break up the monotony. The song "Nobody" comes in straight in after "Closer" and the subject matter is near enough the same: a girl who has it going on and has Ne-Yo completely sprung. The only difference is the beat. Then comes the Polow da Don produced "Single". The version on Year of the gentleman doesn't feature New kids on the block (thank God!) but the song is still whack. It just feels lacking and badly produced. The song doesn't ever take off and it doesn't bang neither. Only from the fourth song onwards does anything begin to really capture your attention. This was the SAME problem I had with Ne-Yo's second album: it takes too long for the really good songs to emerge.

From track four onwards we begin to get those stand out (yet often samey) Stargate productions. Stargate have been churning out the same old bland shit as of late, but they actually came quite different here and their contributions to the album are highlights: cementing that Ne-Yo and Stargate have a strong musical chemistry. "Miss independent" is fire and works that now signature Stargate sound that debuted with "So sick" and "Sexy love" and has been milked to death ever since. The lyrics are nice and the beat bangs nicely. "Mad" is nice mid-tempo cut which has Stargate meshing a pop ballad style melody under hip-hop drum patterns , just as they did with "Sexy love". It would make a great third single. "Back to what you know" is a cracker of a song and is one of my favourites on the album. It's no secret that Ne-Yo is a huge fan of the king of pop and that he is often channeled in Ne-Yo's music - but "Back to what you know" STANKS of Michael like you would not believe. Between the strummy guitars and the drums that knock like "They don't really care about us" - it sounds like 100% like something Michael would do and has already done. If Michael ever actually gets serious about putting out another album, he needs to be hitting up Ne-Yo and Stargate. There's no doubt in my mind these dudes would hook his ghastly arse up.

The tail end of the album is slow, but we do get some nice and different sounding songs: 2 of which are my faves. "So you can cry" is killer and again - stinks of Michael. The lyrics are beautiful and the music is really nice. If you liked "Angel" from Ne-Yo's Because of you, then you'll like this. It's a brilliant song. "Part of the list" is another killer track because Ne-Yo actually comes completely different lyrically and the music itself is so epic and grandiose, complete with strings, acoustic guitars, piano's and tight vocal harmonies from the man himself. This would make a great final single to bookend the album.

Year of the gentleman is an okay album. But somebody as talented as Ne-Yo shouldn't be putting out 'okay' albums. He should be putting out consistently solid ones. The problem with this album is that it features songs that could easily have been from the recording sessions of his last one. There's smatterings of growth here and there, but not enough. Considering this is his third studio album and that he's been grinding for so long, this should've been what he did for his sophomore album, not his third. Ne-Yo is two steps behind in regards to his own solo career.

This is worth buying if you know exactly what you're buying into. But those new to Ne-Yo would be better off checking his debut In my own words, which is his best album by far, and one of the most polished debuts to drop within the past 5 years. Ne-Yo definitely needs to start working with new producers and step out of his comfort zone. He says he's tired of R&B, but he's done absolutely nothing to change it, when he has the talent and is in a position to do so.

Album highlights:
■ Closer
■ Mad
■ Miss independent J's fave
■ Why does she stay
■ So you can cry
■ Part of the list
■ Back to what you know

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