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Ne-Yo: Libra Scale

B+

Ne-Yo

Album: Libra Scale
Label: Def Jam

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With 2008’s Year Of The Gentleman, Vegas-bred Ne-Yo emerged as R&B’s premier singer-songwriter: mature, reflective, playful, and very, very hooky. With nearly as many producers as songs, Libra Scale, Ne-Yo’s fourth album, nevertheless hangs together sonically—these tracks move more fully into the synth-drenched Europop sheen that typified the first half of Year, particularly on cuts such as “Beautiful Monster,” with its clubby bass throb, TB-303 squiggles, and flat four-to-the-floor disco beat, and “Cause I Said So,” a supple up-tempo track that’s very Off The Wall. Michael Jackson is clearly the album’s big inspiration, especially on the ballads “One In A Million” and “Know Your Name,” which lilts like a lighter “Human Nature.” There are fewer observational relationship lyrics than usual; the album runs on a muddled science-fiction scenario in which three men combat evil in exchange for not being allowed to fall in love. But while these songs mostly aren’t as immediate as Ne-Yo’s first three albums, they end up sinking in nevertheless.