Ne-Yo may be one of the busiest musicians in 2013. From supporting his late 2012 release “R.E.D.,” his David Guetta/Akon single “Play Hard,” signing new acts as an A&R rep at Motown, guesting on Ciara’s new “Body Party” remix and contributing material to new albums from superstar acts like Beyonce, Jay-Z and Celine Dion, he’s got his hands full.
He gave Billboard an update Tuesday afternoon during an interview in New York to promote his latest project, a new single called “It’s All Good” for Unilever’s Fruttare ice cream bars.
“I’m still putting stuff together for Beyonce’s album,” he said. “They’re still trying to figure out what they want that to be, which I’m not mad at. Beyonce’s the kind of artist where you’re not gonna see it till it’s right. And her fans — they love her so they’ll be patient.”
Beyonce has been hard at work on her fifth album ever since secret songwriting sessions began last summer in the Hamptons, where writers and producers like Ryan Tedder, The-Dream, Greg Kurstin, Sia and others stayed for over a week to write and collaborate on potential tracks. Though no official single has yet to be released, snippets of songs like “Grown Woman” and “Standing On The Sun” have premiered in ads for Pepsi and H&M, respectively, while another Sia track “Rise Up” recently appeared on the soundtrack for animated movie “Epic.” Ne-Yo and Beyonce are best known for making magic with 2007’s Hot 100 No. 1 “Irreplacable.”
Ne-Yo’s also waiting to see if his contributions to Jay-Z’s just-announced “Magna Carta Holy Grail” will make the cut for the July 4 release. “The thing about Jay is again you don’t know until it’s done,” he said.
“I went in, I did a session where I laid down a couple hooks but I have no idea what’s going to be kept. I heard some of the new stuff. It’s amazing. With Jay-Z it’s hard not to be amazing.”
Hova’s off-script approach to writing inspired Ne-Yo, who co-wrote “It’s All Good” using inspiration from tweets and Instagrams. “I’m trying to escape the shackles of a pen and a pad,” he said. “I’ve sat in sessions with Jay-Z where he doesn’t write anything down. He’ll come up with the most incredible triple entendre all in his head — it’s amazing. That was the main thing that attracted me was just trying something new, which could be a new revenue stream in that regard.”
Ne-Yo is also still actively working on Celine Dion’s still-unscheduled upcoming album, for which they’ve already recorded a cover of Adele and Daniel Merriweather’s “Water And A Flame” and contributed other tracks for more than a year now. “I’m still writing for her,” he says. “I just recently got a call to do some more songs, so I know she’s doing some more work.”
And then there’s his own next album, which is still in the conceptual phase but will likely be “predominantly R&B,” he says. His latest top 10 on the Hot 100 was the Sia-penned “Let Me Love You,” a four-on-the-floor dance ballad that overshadowed the performance of “R.E.D.”‘s R&B-leaning singles like “Lazy Love” and “Jealous,” both of which failed to crack top 40.
“I’m really excited about what’s happening in R&B right now,” he says. “I want to see what my place is in the whole thing. That’s not to say I’m abandoning the EDM genre. I’ve gotten so much unimaginable love from that fanbase and that genre. It’s really rare that an entire genre of music allows an artist from a different genre to come and live there. By no means am I abandoning that, but I definitely know I need to take care of my core — the thing that got me here in the first place. I don’t feel like I’ve given it the attention it deserves.”