Only a singer and writer of Ne-Yo’s suaveness and sensitivity could call an album Year of the Gentleman and mean it. Released in 2008, the third full-length studio effort by the R&B performer, songwriter, and producer—who was born Shaffer Chimere Smith in Camden, Arkansas, in 1979—demonstrated his mastery when it comes to crafting love songs that are sweet and sincere but never sentimental. The album’s biggest hit, “Miss Independent,” is equally remarkable as a male-sung celebration of women’s power, performed in the impeccably smooth manner that became one of Ne-Yo’s signatures after he made the transition from a writer of other people’s hits (including “Irreplaceable” for Beyoncé) to a star in his own right with his 2006 debut In My Own Words. His first hit, “So Sick,” pointed to his knack for instantly engaging yet subtly sophisticated melodies, a gift that served him well on solo smashes like “Miss Independent” and 2012’s “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself),” as well as on his club-friendly collaborations with Pitbull and Afrojack (2011’s “Give Me Everything”) and Akon and David Guetta (2011’s “Play Hard”). Whatever the tempo or the style of the song at hand, Ne-Yo is sure to maintain the poise and finesse that are hallmarks of the best kind of gentleman.
BORNOctober 18, 1979