Ne-Yo: The Distinguished Gentleman
His name is Shaffer Chimere Smith. But most people know him as Ne-Yo. No, not that Neo—the back-bending warrior from The Matrix. The name sneaked up on a lot of people. But there is a good chance that half of the songs in your iPod were written by Ne-Yo, R&B singer/songwriter extraordinaire. Like quite a few other R&B stars, Ne-Yo got his start in the music industry by writing songs for other artists. His impressive roster of artists he’s written songs for: Mary J. Blige, Rihanna, Whitney Houston, and Celine Dion, amongst others. He’s even written songs for Japanese pop groups. In all likelihood, the singer just might have penned one of the popular tunes you just finished humming.
Though Ne-Yo’s career in music officially began somewhere around 1999, his debut album (In My Own Words) was not released until 2006. His music is as much about dancing as it is about finding and staying in love. His videos have just as much eye candy as any other R&B crooner. Ne-Yo’s slick visual imagery and dancing skills are merely icing on the cake. But perhaps it is Ne-Yo’s snazzy little fedora—a veritable brand trademark in and of itself—that made him the industry’s resident “gentleman.” In fact, by the time Year of the Gentleman was released in 2008, the title seemed to fit Ne-Yo to a “T.”
While most are familiar with Ne-Yo’s role as a performer, millions of others are unfamiliar with his under-the-radar approach to the music business. In 2007 the “Beautiful Monster” singer opened his own recording studio in Atlanta called Carrington House and started a production company called Compound Entertainment. And his presence in the entertainment scene doesn’t stop there. In addition to popping up in movies (Save the Last Dance 2; Stomp the Yard) he’s branched out into soundtrack production.
The rather unassuming artist has created a sizable brand empire based on his ability to capitalize off the pop industry’s craving for music that’s easy to swallow. It could be said that Ne-Yo’s brand is encompassed within his yearning-filled writing style. Despite the fact that he’s written hundreds of songs for various artists, the knack is clearly represented by his uncanny ability to capture the ear with a catchy hook and smooth lyrical transitions. Could Ne-Yo and his magic pen be the next greatest things to happen to R&B/pop music? If you’re still humming that same tune, chances are—they already are.