The ’00s saw an interesting trend in R&B music. The genre swerved into the Pop music lane, and one of the best results of that shift was Ne-Yo’s rise as one of the genres premier songwriters. Since R. Kelly, there wasn’t anyone like him jumping from one popular R&B artist to other more popular R&B artists. From Mario, Ciara, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Keri Hilson, and Chrisette Michele, Ne-Yo just racked his songwriters, while simultaneously selling Platinum and putting out hit singles.
It’s an amazing feat having a 6-year career and already being on a 5th album. R.E.D. (Realizing Every Dream) is a comeback to smooth R&B Ne-Yo. Prior to his shift in gears with Libra Scale, Ne-Yo’s strength was in deep cuts with a strong focus on romance. Out of R.E.D.’s 14-song set, there are only two songs about scorned love. Even at its most literal, the album shines through as a huge love letter. The opening track, “Cracks In Mr. Perfect,” focuses on love, where Ne-Yo focuses on his imperfections by telling us that “…in the grand scheme of things it’s our imperfections that truly make us perfect.” The majority of the album helms production by Shea Taylor and StarGate, giving R.E.D. a tight cohesion not seen by Ne-Yo since Year of the Gentleman.
With StarGate’s help, Ne-Yo gives us EDM tinged records with “Let Me Love (Until You Learn to Love Yourself)” and “Forever Now.” One of the albums best is “Carry On (Her Letter to Him)” where Ne-Yo switches places with a woman to write an anthem about an epic dismissal over choir vocals and strings. Never a stranger to being vulnerable, Ne-Yo teams up with production team Phatboiz for “Jealous” where he sings: “What I wouldn’t give to be your shoe. Just so I could caress your feet.” There’s even a surprise duet with Tim McGraw in “She Is.” Even having a country singer smack in the middle of the album would compromise the albums R&B focus. The brightest moment in R.E.D. is “Unconditional” where there’s an EDM influence that never overpowers the melody with deafening horn-synths.
Overall R.E.D. is concise and beautifully simple, making it one of this year’s smoothest R&B albums.