Beginning with the release of his platinum debut In My Own Words in 2006 . to penning such gems as Rihanna's top-ten hit Unfaithful and co-writing Beyonce's instant classic Irreplaceable, which stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 number-one single for ten weeks . to co starring Stomp the Yard, the #1 film at the box office for two weeks in a row Ne-Yo's success story is that of a fairytale. Though last year was merely the launch of his musical journey, Ne-Yo's success was a gleaming achievement in the Def Jam crown. In addition to winning the prestigious Male R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the Year award at the 2006 Billboard Awards (where he was also nominated in three other categories, including Male Artist of the Year, New Artist of the Year, and R&B/Hip-Hop Single of the Year for So Sick, his premiere single), he was nominated for two Grammy's: Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for his chart-topping hit So Sick and Best Contemporary R&B Album. With the release of Ne-Yo's sophomore disc Know Me on April 24th, the talented performer is ready to reveal his stellar growth as a songwriter, his maturity as a man and his prowess as a performer. Listening to the first single, Because Of You one can hear a soulful purity that has been absent from R&B for some time. The up tempo Because of You has been racing up the urban, rhythm, and pop charts and is destined for the break the records that Ne-Yo has already set. As a testament to how far Ne-Yo has been and where he wants to go, his upcoming album is a masterful excursion through the heart and mind of America's latest soul boy wonder.
Kelly Clarkson, kindly step aside: the title "Because of You" now belongs to Ne-Yo, who has done things with it no one with a pair of hands to clap will soon forget. And not just on the phenomenally appealing first single. Throughout Because of You,
the sophomore disc by the songwriter responsible for such monster hits as Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable" and Rihanna's "Unfaithful," a flutter-voiced fluidity--the kind seldom heard since Michael Jackson's Off the Wall
days--reigns. Jay-Z makes room to let it rip on "Crazy," and Jennifer Hudson wraps herself around it with restraint on "Leaving Tonight," a lovers' quarrel that could hold its own against anything Marilyn McCoo & Billy David Jr. cared to toss off in their heyday. If it's MJ who's lingered in Ne-Yo's ear longest, Prince hasn't gone silent, either: echoes poke up on the far-out "Sex with My Ex." Elsewhere, shades of contemporaries such as Nelly and Diddy show through. Overall, though, Ne-Yo's flammable hooks, flirty vibe, and flawless vocals reveal an R&B genius in the making. If the talent bar for up-and-comers is set impossibly high in the coming years, chances are it will be all because of him. --Tammy La Gorce