Ne-Yo on R&B Return: 'I Had to Come on Home'

After flirting with EDM, Ne-Yo returns to R&B for a new single with Jeezy

Love and romance always have been Ne-Yo's stock in trade. The Grammy-winning singer/songwriter and Motown executive, 34, first crooned his way to a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 in 2006 with R&B ballad "So Sick." But in 2011, he sashayed onto the EDM floor, first as a guest on Pitbull's No. 1 smash "Give Me Everything" and then on his own "Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself)" in 2012. Now, Ne-Yo is circling back with a sumptuous new R&B single, "Money Can't Buy" (featuring Jeezy). "I've heard people call this my comeback record," he says, "but I haven't gone anywhere."

 

Your new single includes a nod to William DeVaughn's 1974 R&B hit "Be Thankful for What You Got." What else provided inspiration for the song?

That nod is paying homage to the greats who came before me. But the track itself is celebrating one of my favorite topics: women. But not just any woman - one who has qualities money can't buy: integrity, class, style. They don't get celebrated much, so I had to do a song making sure the new generation knows this kind of woman exists.

You and Jeezy first dueted on 2012's "Leave You Alone." What makes you two click?

There's something about our voices together, which is odd given our backgrounds. I don't think there's anything about me that says "street," while Jeezy is the epitome of that.

What can fans expect from your next album, due this fall?

This album will be predominantly R&B - I had to come on home. My R&B audience felt I had abandoned them; nothing could be further from the truth. R&B is who I am, where I come from, the reason I do this. But I'd be completely wrong to abandon dance music. That's also a very loyal fan base that has kept the lights on for a long time. So there are a couple of songs on the album that can live in that world but also make sense with all the R&B on the album. I found a cool way to toe the line between the two.

How's your second gig as Motown's senior vp of A&R coming along?

I've signed a few acts [including U.K. artist Sonna Rele] that I'm putting together now. I know I've been saying that for a while, but that's the thing: I don't care how long it takes. Maybe Motown was expecting me to move faster. But I'm not going to just put out anything with my name on it. It's either right when you hear it, or you don't hear it. I've got a couple frustrated artists on my hands, but they'll be all right. They'll thank me later.


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