Ne-Yo is one of today’s most gifted song-writers / music artists. If he isn’t writing a new hit for himself, he is no doubt writing them for others.
The man collects more royalty checks in a year than most artists do in a lifetime. It hasn’t even been a decade since he released his first album “In My Own Words,” but his resume would lead you to think differently.
His first three albums: “In My Own Words,” “Because of You” and “Year of the Gentleman” were well thought out collections which provided no filler and displayed a growth in Ne-Yo – not just in song writing but in vocal range as well.
His last two albums “Libra Scale” and “R.E.D” proved he can still deliver a hit single, but for whatever reason, the albums as a whole fell flat. Maybe there’s a possibility that Ne-Yo has already peaked and he has worn himself out. “Non-Fiction” is Ne-Yo’s attempt to prove that he is still one of the top music acts in the industry today.
“Non-Fiction” is a carefully packaged group of recordings, which can only be appreciated if listening to the album from start to finish. Ne-Yo takes the listener on a journey. It’s the journey of a man being single, being in love and losing that love. This story is told as Ne-Yo the protagonist meets three different kinds of women: Vanity, Integrity and Temptation.
The album opens with the tracks “Everybody Loves” and “Run.” Both tracks deliver a mellow feeling, as if Ne-Yo himself, is too cool for the stories he tells. The two tracks serve as a set up, like the opening scenes to a motion picture.
In “Everybody Loves,” Ne-Yo describes a woman who only is with him for his celebrity status: “Only loves me when I’m hanging with celebrity friends / Use me to get closer to them / Chris Brown, Trey Songz or maybe even Jigga / She be like ‘If you goin’ can I come wit’ ya.’” This track leads to “Run” in which Ne-Yo is telling dudes to abandon a situation with a girl who is obviously no good for anybody. The feature by ScHoolboy Q seems a bit forced, but then again when doesn’t ScHoolboy Q seem as if he’s forced on a record. . .
The next group of songs finds Ne-Yo falling for a girl named “Integrity.” The song finds Ne-Yo trying to sweet talk a woman who is too smart for his game and when all else fails, Ne-Yo’s falsetto melody on the hook should be what it takes to get her attention.
“One More” which features T.I. plays up on a previous Ne-Yo hit single “Miss Independent” as Ne-Yo wants to pay tribute to a lady with a drink because she deserves it. Ne-Yo follows this with three club songs and at least he hits on two out of the three. . .
“Who’s Taking You Home” is a collaboration with producer David Guetta. The song goes from a comfortable head nodding-lounge track to a an all out hands in the air-club feel. Ne-Yo is at home on tracks like these as he’s proven on “Closer” and “Beautiful Monster” and the track builds up perfectly. “Coming With You” combines pianos and synths heard in 90’s dance music combined with a mid-90’s hip hop drum track.
It’s an uptempo mix that works well and all the while, Ne-Yo never loses his trademark “cool.” The song itself is something most guys can relate to, in trying to score with the girl he’s been talking to all night: “Where you going? What you getting into? / Said if it’s all good baby girl I’m coming with you.” Ne-Yo and Pitbull try to rekindle the magic they had on the hit record “Give Me Everything” on the track “Time of Our Lives,” but it comes out like forced commercial non-sense that should’ve been left off of the album altogether.
Ne-Yo gets his “grown and sexy” on with “Take You There” and follows that up with “Good Morning” in which he makes the indirect (direct) innuendo of oral-sex being “breakfast in bed.”
On this section of the album, Ne-Yo is almost in a state of euphoria as the love he’s receiving is enough to make him “Religious.” Him and rapper Jeezy even point out a woman who has everything “Money Can’t Buy,” which opens like an R&B throwback track nicely and makes a smooth transition to Jeezy’s vocals afterwards. “Make It Easy” is probably the most personally revealing song on the album as Ne-Yo points out that being who he is, makes it hard to believe he’ll find the one: “Shawty where you at? Baby girl we got bags to pack / we got trips to take if you cool with that /let me see that you got my back / then we’ll get into all of that / if you make it easy.”
Temptation, shows it’s face and starts to be the demise of Ne-Yo’s optimism. The horn-infused “She Knows” is probably the album’s most head-nod-worthy beat and although Juicy J’s verse is based off of pre-school rhyme schemes, Juicy J’s flow is right for “strip-club” music like this. “Story Time” is a comical take of a guy trying to convince his girlfriend into having a three-some: “You actin’ funny and I don’t know why / Cause you can’t tell me that you don’t like girls, don’t lie / she said ‘i can appreciate a pretty face and nice backside / but just cause I might find a girl sexy, that does not make me bi / Yes it does.” Ne-Yo’s sense of humor and overall vocal tone work perfectly against the acoustic guitar. The lyrics make you actually want to focus on where the story is going more than anything else.
The album then finds Ne-Yo in a state of an ended relationship all due to him. Ne-Yo pulls at the heartstrings with his vocal arrangement on “Why.” Some men might listen to the lyrics and it’ll strike to close to home on their own mistakes “What the hell was I thinking / I wish I was drinking / so I can blame it on the liquor. . . Now I’m avoiding eye-contact like if I owed her money / trying to laugh it off, clearly she don’t think it’s funny.” Ne-Yo ends this journey with “Congratulations” in which Ne-Yo sees his ex a year later and although it kills him to know that she has found happiness with another man, he knows he had his chance and she deserves to be happy.
Conceptually and lyrically, Ne-Yo is solid while taking the listener on this “Non-Fiction” journey. His story telling combined with his personality cleary set him apart from his contemporaries. It’s easily his most complete album since “Year of the Gentleman” and aside from some unnecessary features and a few awkward moments, the reality is that “Non-Fiction” proves once again that Ne-Yo, is the truth.
Rating 8.5 out of 10