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Ne-Yo: Year Of The Gentleman

C+

Ne-Yo

Album: Year Of The Gentleman
Label: Def Jam

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Ne-Yo is part of a new generation of R&B; stars who came up through the songwriting ranks, scoring hit after hit for other artists before recording their own material. Songwriters-turned-singers like John Legend, Robin Thicke, and Ne-Yo are so slick, appealing, and photogenic that it's hard to imagine why they weren't pushed into the spotlight in the first place. Alas, Ne-Yo can be a little too slick, as the title of his third album, Year Of The Gentleman, attests. Too much of the disc falls lazily into the template that made Ne-Yo a star: yearning vocals, romantic lyrics, sleepy tempos, tasteful acoustic guitar plucking or piano tinkling, and an aversion to anything too rocking or quirky. Still, Ne-Yo manages a few inspired variations on this formula: His ethereal falsetto channels Michael Jackson as he sings of romantic rapture on "Stop This World," while "Nobody" suggests Pharrell's periodic forays into disco. But with his latest, Ne-Yo's winning groove devolves into a rut, and his quiet storm gets awfully sleepy.