Monday, November 1, 2010


Finally took the time to stop and hit play on Ne-Yo’s “Libra Scale” album and thankful I did. It kicks off with an extra long “Champagne Life” which is fly enough that you might not even notice the song is more than 5 minutes long. Then the album slides to “Makin a Movie” which doesn’t really get hot until the 22 second intro plays itself through. Once it kicks in though…a whole new level of smooth.
“Know Your Name” reminded me of a Sade kind of vibe, but with a hint of throwback to the soul of the late 60’s with the dope drum fills. One of the strongest points of the album is the crisp engineering and smooth production. I’ve really noticed lately that R&B artists are far superior with the mix and master/engineering of their albums and this holds true to the trend. Another highlight of the song “Know Your Name” is the song arrangement itself. Loved the way it slides up and down with a smooth ebb and flow.
“Telekinesis” really stirred memories of early Michael Jackson with the maturity Ne-Yo shows with his voice and tone. This may be the album where Ne-Yo marks a growing-up sort of turning point in his career. “Crazy Love” may be my favorite from the album, but that’s a hard choice considering I think this is one of the 10 best R&B albums of 2010. “Crazy Love” includes the only feature on the entire album with Fabolous sliding in for a verse that fits perfect in cadence, tone, and flow. The only thing that distracts from the song is the Ryan Leslie production sounds like it may have ripped a guitar riff from Laurny Hills which is breaching into sacred ground.
“One in a Million” is a very commercial song. I’m not mad at that, but it kind of stuck out as such. The Michael Jackson influence is clearly evident within “Genuine Only”. “Cause I Said So’ follows suit with the heavy Michael Jackson influence and is the first song to make me knock the album out of my top 5 R&B albums of the year. Not that it’s bad – not at all, its just that the Michael Jackson influence carried over too much not only with the production but also with Ne-Yo’s delivery.
I know that “Beautiful Monster” has immediate crossover appeal so I understand releasing it as the albums lead single, but it’s hard to swallow as a DJ who predominantly focuses on Hip-Hop and R&B. Looking at the album through the initial concept of a short movie exploring a story questioning morality and both sides of the Libra Scale: the decision between money, fame, power and love; every single track fits perfect as the album really does play out like a movie score. If Ne-Yo would have been able to follow through with the original concept, this would have been one of the most epic film concept projects of the year easily.
“What Have I Done” would have been the perfect ending to the saga. As a stand alone song though, it’s simply ok. I would highly recommend purchasing the Japan Deluxe Edition DVD. Listening to the music accompanied by the original vision of a short movie would make it flow seamlessly with every song fitting a specific scene. Even though the overall vibe seams to straddle the lines of urban R&B and commercial R&B, I still rate this in the top 10 R&B albums of 2010, with my personal favorites played out in the first 5 tracks.

1. Champagne Life
2. Makin' a Movie
3. Know Your Name
4. Telekinesis
5. Crazy Love (featuring Fabolous)
6. One in a Million
7. Genuine Only
8. Cause I Said So
9. Beautiful Monster
10. What Have I Done?

An interesting side note, I brought in regular people who are not tied to the industry at all to get their opinions on the album and I was surprised to find that none of them would buy the entire album ,but would rather download individual singles and even more worthy of note is the songs the listening party liked most were the initial 5 songs because those 5 sound like original content and sincere, versus the heavy Michael Jackson influence so pervasive through the final 5 tracks of the record.

Yet another interesting twist developed when I came across 6 more songs from Ne-Yo that are not on the album:

Ne-Yo - Cocoa Butta
Ne-Yo - Just My Problem
Ne-Yo - Majic
Ne-Yo - Memories
Ne-Yo - So Wrong
Ne-Yo - The End

"Cocoa Butter" is left off the album for good reason. That doesn't fit with the overall vibe of the album at all, but "Just My Problem" is one that should have definitely been included. This one would have easily been one of my top picks from the album. "Majic" won't be missed from the album either, but again "Memories" is a real nice mellow vibe that would have been a good fit for the album. With no doubt at all "So Wrong" would have definitely been a top pick from the album and will find it's way into my mixes. "The End" sounds like it's either a reference track or just one of those tracks that got laid in rough and later was determined to be removed from the project so it was simply left unfinished. If these are tracks that were recorded for the album but later determined unworthy, they made a mistake leaving "Just My Problem", "Memories" and "So Wrong" off the final album track listing.

This screenplay appears to still be in the hands of the screenwriters because I just found yet another (this would be the 7th) track that is not included on the actual "Libra Scale" album.

Ne-Yo "Shot Down" (Produced by Boola)

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