Initially starting out as a budding songwriter for A-list artists, Ne-Yo is now the toast of the scene with chart-topping singles and albums to boot. The pinnacle may have been his 2008 effort Year Of Gentleman, where chivalry prospered throughout the disc. Two years later, Ne-Yo has yet another concept that comes in the form of Libra Scale. Accompanied by a handful of long-form music videos that bring Ne-Yo’s vision to life, the album tells the story of Jerome, a garbage man that gains fame and power but loses love in return. Ultimately though, the music will justify the acceptance of his latest album, and it’s one to be noted.
Over the last few years, Ne-Yo has shown noticeable traces of influence from Michael Jackson in his music, and rightfully so; the two had been in contact prior to Jackson’s untimely death. Almost as homage, “Cause I Said So” builds this influence into a surreal resemblance of performance. From the heart-thumping bass line to his utilization of the vocal hiccup, Ne-Yo emulates the attitude and energy we’ve all come to know from the King of Pop. “Genuine Only” may not cover as much similar territory. However, where it initially sounds like there’s a strain in his singing, he undoubtedly is in total vocal control, a trick Jackson perfected in his long career.
“Telekinesis” may be the album’s standout record, backed by brooding drums and a cascading melody that sets the perfect vibe. Imagining the girl of his dreams in front of him, Ne-Yo sends chills down her spine as he sensually asks, “Girl have you ever had someone take the time / To sex your body, but also sex your mind?” The polar opposite of “Telekinesis” is “Crazy Love” , a grooving record describing a reckless love that, although it should have ended months ago, continues due to the childish games played in relationships. Chiming in with his two cents, Fabolous’ verse gives the back-and-forth trials clarity as he raps, “You want to start it first and get the last word / You want to lock me down and get the password.”
While relatively success on the charts because of its Electro-Pop aesthetic, the content and production performed on “Beautiful Monster” sounds eerily similar to Ne-Yo’s 2008 single “Closer.” True, these types of tracks do serve a purpose; to get people on the dance floor at clubs and to sell records when the album hits stores. Needless to say though, Ne-Yo has shown he is much more creative than this one-dimensional ploy. The album-ending “What Have I Done” marks the demise of our protagonists’ love affair as he has found himself in a predicament that has no happy ending. Pensive in delivery, Ne-Yo doesn’t quite capture the appropriate mood.
Over the course of Ne-Yo’s four album career, we have seen him transition from the guy next door to an aristocratic lover bent on pleasing the opposite sex. With that said, Libra Scale shows artistic growth and commitment to evolution. Still, Libra Scale lacks the sparkle found in Ne-Yo's previous work. Much like “Champagne Life,” there is still plenty to celebrate. Toast it up.