The singer/songwriter Ne-Yo ditches the disappointing concept album formula of his previous release and returns with his much more polished fifth studio album R.E.D. (an acronym for "Realising Every Dream").
Ne-Yo's first release after signing with Motown Records is a powerful exploration of the dichotomy between the soulful R&B he is loved for and the pulsating dance pop he is so good at.
His uplifting dance anthems don't sound painfully franchised or recorded solely to satisfy a niche market; Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself), Let's Go and Forever Now are radio-friendly but also possess a kind of lyrical substance that isn't easily found in most dance efforts mechanically churned out by contemporary R&B singers. They are also refreshingly devoid of Auto-Tune; his soulful tenor is all that is needed to carry the songs, eliminating the need for any vocal accoutrements.
Ne-Yo also shows that even though he can be experimental (look out for She Is featuring Tim McGraw, his first foray into country territory), he hasn't forgotten about his urban radio audience and certainly hasn't lost his knack for writing smooth, slow jams. Lazy Love and Stress Reliever are classic Ne-Yo R&B songs that are impeccably arranged and tailor-made for lovers.
Ne-Yo clearly adores his female audience and caters to them specifically on a number of R&B cuts on his latest release. Carry On (Her Letter To Him) tells the story of a break-up from a woman's perspective that is sure to be a mainstay on the playlists of heartbroken girls everywhere. Don't Make Em Like You (featuring Wiz Khalifa) is a "toast to ladies with class" that is sure to pick their spirits up again; this oestrogen-friendly anthem celebrates female empowerment and sounds reminiscent of his 2008 hit Miss Independent.
The album opener Cracks in Mr Perfect is a brutally honest confessional that unapologetically lists the singer's many flaws and shortcomings. Before sonically recounting sordid tales of infidelity, irresponsibility and deplorable moments of conspicuous consumption, Ne-Yo declares that the song will either make you "love me for my honesty or hate me for being me". Whatever conclusion you end up coming to, Ne-Yo's charming honesty and flawless vocals will undoubtedly soften the blow of his unflinchingly frank confessions.
This album is a testament to Ne-Yo's personal maturity and his evolution as an artist; he has managed to hold on to the timeless soul that he is best known for as well as make the most out of a trend that he arguably started. His unadulterated talent allows him effortlessly to straddle different genres in a concise and seamless way that results in his strongest effort in recent years.