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Music

NE-YO

Scott Woods

R&B  

Ne-Yo

Because of You

***

The 24-year-old, Vegas-bred wunderkind has done as much as anyone recently to inject a dose of classic song form into R&B without coming off as a retro schmuck. Ne-Yo’s 2006 singles, “So Sick” and “Sexy Love,” projected a winning naiveté, while Rihanna’s “Unfaithful” and Beyoncé’s “Irreplaceable”—both co-written by homeboy—are expertly crafted urban-pop dramas that would be considered melodic highlights on any radio format.

I’d put money down that we’ll be hearing more from this guy, but Because of You advances his case only slightly. There’s an interesting tension inherent in Ne-Yo’s persona, between the boyish, clean-cut love balladeer (“Make it Work”) and the coming-of-age Prince fan with a taste for kink (“Sex With My Ex”), but such tension isn’t explored. Some of the ballads come off with a whimper, and his Prince moves feel a bit forced.

Still, if Ne-Yo’s storyline needs some work, his means of articulating his confusion remain intriguing. The title cut, a slinky dance-floor shuffle, proves his instincts for a classic Michael Jackson groove are as finely tuned as they were on “Sexy Love.” “Angel,” on the other hand, is gorgeously well-orchestrated dream-pop R&B, a sound you could get lost in for an evening. Who knows, or cares, what it’s even about.

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