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Album Review: Ne-Yo’s Libra Scale

Grammy winning singer/songwriter Ne-Yo returns with his fourth CD, Libra Scale, which features the singles "Champagne Life," "Beautiful Monster," and "One in a Million"

Alright.  Let’s get this out of the way right now:  Michael Jackson’s influence on Ne-Yo is severely obvious to the average person.  He’s released songs that harken both the signature vibrato vocal style and musical arrangements of the gloved one.  His latest album, Libra Scale, is no different.  In fact MJ’s spirit has been injected into each and every song like steroids!  And now, having said that, let’s get to the heart of the matter.  The album is incredible!!   While Ne-Yo’s been no stranger to hit singles, (“So Sick,” “Because of You,” “Closer,” etc.), his three previous albums have been a touch patchy.  Where Libra Scale differs is that it follows an arc; a story, which makes every song significant.

As a big comic book advocate, Ne-Yo set out to create an ambitious project about three garbage men (one played by himself) who are given superhuman powers, fame and fortune, provided that their powers are used for good and they don’t fall in love.   He even wrote a script for a short film, opting in the end to limit it to separate music videos.  But if you remove the plot and literal concept of Ne-Yo as Jerome the garbage man saving the day against evil doers, you’ll notice that Ne-Yo crafted a CD that told a broader tale of a man who revels in bachelorhood – playing the field and loving every minute – who unexpectedly finds love with just one woman, only to end up forever changing her into the same “monster” he still was on the inside.

With 10 songs on the CD, Ne-Yo wrote with nine different producers.  The irony is that none of his previous albums have ever sounded this musically cohesive.  “Champagne Life” sets the tone, a celebratory track of “fast car nights and big full days.”  After “Makin’ a Movie” with another conquest, things get soothing out when a special girl catches his eye.  Things shift quickly, from the smooth moving “Know Your Name” to the ultra-sexy “Telekinesis” to the funky Ryan Leslie produced “Crazy Love.”

Every song here is equipped with sultry-sliding background vocals that gives each song a magical density.  This is no more evident than in the album closer “What Have I Done.”  Preceded by the club friendly “Beautiful Monster,” Ne-Yo takes responsibility for his part in changing a good girl into a bad one.  This track is special because it contains a air of introspective darkness and regret not heard from Ne-Yo before.  And while the MJ comparisons may be warranted, “What Have I Done” captures the under-appreciated ominous essence of Michael that no other artist has been able to emulate on record since him…until now, albeit briefly.

This was the first time I could listen to a Ne-Yo CD from front to back without skipping a single song.  As mentioned previously, each track spills into the other, with exquisite pacing and variety.  As picky as I can be about my music, that’s saying a lot.  Having said that, his best days are still ahead of him.  Having seen him perform with a live band on award shows and TV appearances, there’s still a missing element of musicianship that has yet to be tapped on wax.  Once he explores that, watch out!  Until then, go pick this up.  You won’t be disappointed.

Ne-Yo’s Libra Scale Get Four Headphones Out Of Five

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