Ne-Yo Talks New Album, New Writing, and Being Music's New Gentleman

On April 21st, the Liacoris Center at Temple University welcomed the Alicia Keys experience to Philadelphia. On the card, Jordin Sparks was set to open the show, but had to cancel due to vocal chord deficiencies. Luckily Alicia was backed by this musical generations’ Renaissance man, Ne-Yo.Before Ne-Yo hit the stage, we sat down for a quick chat that interrupted the entertainer's, head in his hands, power nap. He has a new album and a new perspective to display for your enjoyment. 2008 will be the Year of the Alternatives: You have a new album coming out called, Year of the Gentleman. When can we expect it and what does it encompass?Ne-Yo: Year of the Gentleman is slated for June 24th. I gave it this title because I made an assessment of what I personally view this industry as, today. I want to bring the integrity back to the game, from the look to the essence. If you take things back to the days of Nat King Cole and/or the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin), you couldn’t call yourself an entertainer unless you were a special type of industry; looked the part. Your suit had to be pressed, your tie had to be pressed and your shoes must be shined up. Nowadays, you look at rappers and you look at R&B singers and you can’t tell the difference. And that’s just the look. I’m not saying that clothes make the man, because that’s not always true. But I do know that a gentleman knows the importance of dressing for the occasion. The other part in being a gentleman is your persona. There’s a lot of, “Hey, look at me,” in this industry right now. Let’s look back at the Rat Pack once more. Everybody was suited up back then. But it was about being the coolest cat in the room, without trying to be the coolest cat in the room. That is the essence of this album and my look this time around. Now in saying that, in calling yourself a gentleman is about being universal. People respect a gentleman even if they don’t necessarily like him. So with that being said, I can’t place myself in a box and call it “Urban." I can’t just do Urban records and I can’t just do Pop records; I have to branch out and trying new things. My first single "Closer" is a House record. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it; it’s a House record. The whole album won’t be that, but it should clue you in on what I’m doing as far as the sound. I have some music that I’m working on that sounds like the Beatles; some of it sounds like Billy Joel for example. Yes, I have that Urban feel that my fans have grown accustomed to, but I wanted to be more universal this time Alternatives: Go back to that moment in your life between the Because of You album and Year of the Gentleman that influenced your direction this time around.Ne-Yo: Honestly, this album stems from just growing up in Las Vegas and being a fan of the Rat Pack, Tom Jones and Wayne Newton; learning what it was to be an entertainer, not so much just an R&B singer or labeled as an Hip-Hop artist. Everything was just larger than life and clean. This was the way that I grew up viewing entertainment. Wayne Newton would walk on stage with his suit with sparkling gems on it, accompanied by back-up singers that looked the part and that was what defined being an entertainer was. I’m just looking at the game right now and not seeing it anymore; entertainment. To a degree, I’m not seeing showmanship Alternatives: You always have that track that people gravitate towards as their anthem. On Year of the Gentleman what do you feel would be that song?Ne-Yo: At the moment, I honestly can’t say because the album isn’t done yet; which is really messing with me right now. I’m trying to go for June 24th, yet I’m still recording. As for the songs that I do have that I feel will stand out, I have a song called "Stop this World." The song is about being so seriously in love that you feel it could stop the world. There’s a song called "What’s the Matter." This song is very special to me. It talks about people that ask for a particular thing, get it, and then complain about it. For example, the lyrics in the bridge are: All the ladies like the bad boys / so you go and get a bad boy / and he treat you bad / and you act surprised. You got what you asked for, so what’s the matter? It’s just saying that you got what you asked for, so what the hell is wrong? Then I have my annual Michael Jackson tribute on this album called "Nobody," that’s just straight up Michael. I want to say that I’m not imitating Michael, I’m paying homage to Mike. This time around, I didn’t touch on the tribute like the way I did Because of You. I went straight there this time around, like yeah, this is Michael. I’m just really going to need for people to listen to this album with an open mind. I want my fans to know that the type of artist that I am, I can’t just do the same records over and over again. I can’t sit stagnant in this Urban box, I just can’t do it. I personally feel that my fans are with me and they understand what I am trying to do. Alternatives: What else can your fans look forward to from you in 2008?Ne-Yo: I’m still writing for a whole lot of people. I have John Legend on deck, Robin Thicke on deck, Ciara on deck, Letoya Luckett on deck, Lionel Richie on deck, that’s just to name a few. I have a cartoon that I’ve created for Adult Swim on Cartoon Network. Negotiations are looking very good on that. I have Compound Entertainment that I’m still trying to put artists together for. And that’s it for the most part. Year of the Gentleman…