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Ne-Yo: Self Explanatory review – nostalgic mid-tempo fillers

(Motown)
Strong vocals and head-nodding moments aside, the R&B singer-songwriter’s latest record falls short of his career highs Throughout the early 2000s, R&B singer-songwriter Shaffer Chimere Smith, AKA Ne-Yo, dominated mainstream radio. Pairing confessional lyricism with a slick falsetto and earworming hooks, he spawned hits such as 2006’s So Sick, 2007’s Because of You, and the Rihanna feature Hate That I Love You in 2008. Smith’s first three albums reached the top two spots in the US charts, and then he largely disappeared from the airwaves. Since 2010, he has been releasing records to dwindling success, with 2018’s Good Man failing to chart in the UK. On his latest, eighth album, Smith showcases that still-distinctive voice. Across 13 tracks he meanders from spoken-register entreaties on Layin’ Low to melismatic runs on Don’t Love Me and breezy falsetto on Want It All or Nothing. He still has an ear for head-nodding productions too: After Party channels late-80s synth R&B, while Handle Me Gently takes on a new jack swing reminiscent of SWV’s 1992 hit Right Here. Yet the pleasant nostalgia of these highlights isn’t enough to carry the record as a whole: tracks such as Proud of You, Call Me Up and No Loot play as mid-tempo filler. Continue reading...

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