Album review: Ne-Yo - Another kind of Christmas

Album review: Ne-Yo - Another kind of Christmas | Random J Pop

R&B / Pop singer 'n' songwriter Ne-Yo has released his first Christmas album, which doesn't feel in the slightest bit strange. What's stranger is that we hadn't gotten one already, given his love for R&B and Soul renaissances that he references and pays homage to with every album that he's put out. 'Cos we know that R&B and Soul singers be loving a Christmas album.

Another kind of Christmas features 4 original songs and 7 covers, but not your typical Christmas covers. Of course, there is "This Christmas", because black folk love that shit and "Carol of the bells". But the others are non-traditional Christmas songs from the likes of Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway, in comparison to the usual suspects of "Silent night", "Little drummer boy", "O Holy night" (another black folk fave) or "Santa Claus is coming to town".

The album title isn't just a gimmick. It's true to the core of this album. Another kind of Christmas is very much a grown R&B Christmas album, a premise that I like, because it's different. But most importantly, it's on brand for Ne-Yo. However, the issue here is that the Christmas theme feels so light that you forget that you're listening to a Christmas album. The original songs are basically your run of the mill Ne-Yo joints with a Christmas reference placed in the chorus.

"Talk about it" is from the perspective of two spouses comparing their family's and how they do Christmas. But the problem here is that the subject matter can be lifted straight out of the Christmas context. This could be a song about any family gathering. Jill Scott did such a song with "Family reunion", which is not only a better song, but fully captures the spirit of a family reunion and feels more joyous and Holiday geared than this take from Ne-Yo for a Christmas album. "Open mine tonight" is about getting pussy on Christmas day. Which is fine. Christmas songs about wanting someone for Christmas day as opposed to something is a Christmas song theme. Christmas sex is a thing. So I actually like that Ne-Yo went there. But the lyrics are so bad. Every cliché you can think of likening pussy to a present is in this song. And once again, you take this scenario out of Christmas and it's just a generic ass song about wanting pussy. "Just ain't Christmas" is about a dude being in his feelings because he got dumped and is alone. Again, take Christmas out of this shit and it's just another 'OH, SHE GOWN AND I'M ALONE' song from Ne-Yo. "Christmas vibez" and "It's for everybody" are the better of the original cuts. "Christmas vibez" is a reggae style Christmas song sung by female vocalist Satori, which is really nice; presenting a take on a Christmas song we've not heard since Toni Braxton's "Christmas in Jamaica". And "It's for everybody" plays up to the more Pop leaning Ne-Yo that we got on songs like "Let me love you (Until you learn to love yourself)". But again, neither song feels particularly Christmassy.

The problem with the original songs being so Christmas lite is that they didn't need to be Christmas songs, and each of them would have worked far better if they weren't. They all sound like songs that Ne-Yo already had sitting around, which he then decided to re-purpose.

Ne-Yo's songwriting also doesn't feel as sharp as it once was. It's almost like he's become a cliché of himself. What seemed cool and original on his debut In my own words, Because of you and to an extent, Year of the gentleman now feels tired and a bit played out. So if you've not really been checking for Ne-Yo's music for the past few years, then nothing here is going to rope you back into it.

If Ne-Yo wanted to do a grown sexy R&B Christmas album, then he should have taken notes out of Ariana Grande's book for Christmas & Chill. Ariana was singing about being loved up and getting her halls decked with dick, but the songs still ticked the festivity boxes. Bells? Check. Wind chimes? Check. Interpolations and references to existing Christmas songs? Check. The songs were laced with enough festivity that there was no mistaking them for songs from Yours truly or My everything, or leftovers that were dressed up into Christmas songs. Ne-Yo could even could have gone the old skool route by delivering a Christmas album that didn't compromise on the Soul and paid homage to the sounds of Motown; a label whose classic roster in its heyday had all released at least one Christmas song. Ne-Yo is also signed to Motown, so it would have had that connection too.

What we have ended up with here is an album that doesn't feel Christmassy enough, but also features just enough Christmas references that you can't take it as a standard Ne-Yo album. And as a result of this, the album sits in this weird state of not-a-full-on-Christmas-album-but-not-a-standard-album either limbo. The likes of "So sick", "Sexy love" and "Because of you" sound more like Christmas songs than anything Ne-Yo gives us here.

Ne-Yo seemed to forget that there needed to be commerciality to this album. It was supposed to be a Christmas album. Albeit, a different type of Christmas album as the title informs us. But even so, Ne-Yo missed the mark with this. There's no sense of fun or true vision for this album. It just doesn't sound like an album that had Christmas at it's core to build songs around, even though half of it is covers of Christmas songs. And I can't help but wonder if this album was made out of a genuine desire to do a Christmas album or to fulfil a contractual obligation. Regardless, this shit is lazy.

RATING: 1 / 10

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