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Album art work for Ne-Yo shot in Los Angeles, CA.

Ne-Yo on Ed Sheeran and Fire-breathing Dragons with Lipstick

Ne-Yo releases his first album in two years tomorrow! We sat down with the global, superstar, hitmaker, to talk about the new album ‘Non-Fiction’, writing credits and hats – duh?

PN: I Walked in to Ne-Yo humming Ed Sheeran’s ‘Don’t’, so of course I had to ask…

NY: I haven’t worked with him yet, but I would definitely love to work wit him. Ed Sheeran is absolutely, a quality songwriter. I’m really a fan of his work.

PN: The new album ‘Non Fiction’ has such an amazing concept behind it. You asked fans to send in their relationship stories and you wrote about them, so every single song is a true story to somebody?

NY: It was mainly through Twitter.

PN: 140 characters of a relationship story and you made a whole amazing song?

NY: [Laughs] I mean… I started out quite specifically. For example I would ask, ‘Who has a girlfriend that does this? Or who has a boyfriend that does that? Tell me about it’, but later on it was just like, ‘Tell me what’s going on in your relationship…’ that’s when stuff started getting kind of deep. I had everything under specific hash tags and the ones I really liked, or found interesting, ended up being songs.

Ne-Yo – ‘Coming With You’

PN: Describe ‘Non-Fiction’ in the style of the Four Pics One Word game.

NY: So four pictures and the word is Non Fiction and you have to guess the word based on the pictures? Ok, got it. Let me see…

(After some time and much deliberation) Hmm, this is a question that I should have had time to prepare for [laughs]. Ok,

1. A picture of a broken heart


2. A story book


3. A champagne bottle


4. And a dragon


PN: Why the champagne and the dragon?

NY: There are a couple of songs on the album that speak about what it is to be Ne-Yo right now and some of the more interesting things that have happened to me, via nightclubs and things of that nature, have been alcohol fuelled, so that is that champagne. The dragon would represent just some of the women I have encountered throughout the course of being Ne-Yo.

PN: So a fire breathing dragon?

NY: Yes, a fire breathing dragon wearing lipstick!

PN: You have dabbled in EDM and also pop, as well as writing some of the biggest RnB songs ever written, which would you say has been the most lucrative?

NY: Honestly, I think they all kind of blur into the same thing. There’s the RnB stuff which has its own genre, then pop has its own genre, all the EDM and all that stuff has only really recently started becoming its own genre, like in its own specific lane. So that’s where you would find your David Guetta and your Calvin Harris and all those guys. As far as lucrative…? I’d say EDM. Its’ a bit more universal than [honestly] any other genre of music I’ve heard. RnB is still a very boutique genre. There are groups here and there that like it. Whereas EDM and dance music kind of fits everyone. EDM and dance music is all about the feeling… the feeling you get from the music. RnB is more, you listen to the lyrics or whatever and it takes you somewhere. EDM and dance are very multipurpose sounds.

PN: Do you find RnB to be slightly fragmented nowadays?

NY: A little bit… I need RnB and practitioners of, to understand that RnB as a genre cannot flourish if we do not expand. I mean, there are your die hard RnB fans who feel like, if it doesn’t have these specific instruments and it doesn’t have these specific melodies and if it isn’t talking bout these specific things, then it isn’t an RnB song. I feel like that’s the kind of thinking that’s keeping RnB where it’s at. You have to be willing to expand in incorporate elements from other genres. Every other kind of music has, except RnB. The closest we come to that is hip hop. We’ll infuse some hip hop and think that we are being innovative. That’s not innovative… we’ve been doing that like, forever. What’s next?

I got a little bit of backlash for being one of the first – if not the first – RnB artist to move over and dabble into some dance stuff. I caught a little bit of backlash behind that and I feel like at the end of the day, RnB is standing still and the reason it is standing still is because, the way people think in regards to RnB is not forward thinking. Its traditional, its classic and that’s all cool, fun and good, but just like anything traditional and classic, if you want to keep it that way, then its just going to stay right here where it happened at, and its not going to move into the future its going to maintain its classic, traditional, stamp and it’s just going to be what it is. If you want to move into the future with it and you want it to evolve, you have to allow it to evolve.

PN: Speaking as probably what you have just described as a ‘traditionalist’, do you feel like there is a lack of romance in RnB music nowadays?

NY: There is definitely a lack of romance right now. It’s super misogynistic right now. My thinking is… there is nothing wrong with a quote-unquote “do me” record. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you have the “make love” record to balance it out. There’s nothing wrong with ‘These Hoes Ain’t Loyal’ as long as you have, ‘I Love Her, She’s The Love of My Life’ to balance it out. Every song can’t be, ‘These Hoes Ain’t Loyal’ and ‘these bitches and la, la, la’. That is definitely moving the genre in the wrong direction. I’m not dissing any of these records or these artists. I am a fan of a lot of these records and these artists. However, we need the diversity. We need the sunshine so that we can appreciate the darkness and vice-versa.

PN: Is this what you are planning on doing with this new album?

NY: That’s what I’m trying to do with this new album. Love. Does. Not. Go. Out. Of. Style. I refuse to let people that are more concerned with what sounds cool, than what is eternal, to let that happen. Love is eternal, even if it isn’t popular nowadays. It is still a force that this world cannot function without. With that being said, I will always write love songs. I may dabble in this or that a little bit, but I’m never going to be the guy to not take it back to where it came from. The real. This is what I refer to as ‘The Real Stuff’, the stuff that doesn’t die. Love doesn’t die.

PN: As mentioned earlier, you have written some of the biggest and most amazing RnB love songs ever, some of which have been for other people and therefore a lot of people don’t know you were behind it all. How do writing credits work, if you write me a song, how does it then become mine?

NY: If you contributed to the end result of the song, what the song became, in some way shape or form or fashion, then you are a writer. There are specifics. For example, if you didn’t write any of the lyrics then you can’t say you wrote the song.

PN: So just adding some ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ would allow you to take credit for the whole song?

NY: But you see, ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from the standpoint of people that read music, counts as writing. Everything is negotiable, depending on what contracts are signed and what contracts are drawn up and also the opinions will change depending on what writer you are talking to. Some people will say, ‘adlibs don’t count as writing’, but if you did an adlib that went D, B, A there’s a guy that can write out D, B, A, and then read D, B, A as music.

(We had a question about rappers who may not be able to rap getting away with writing credits in the fashion outlined above, but Ne-Yo’s people made us take it out).

PN: So who gets the money?

NY: Again, everything is negotiable [big smile and wink].

PN: You must have so many hats. Do you wear them once and throw them away like rappers do with white t-shirts?

NY: No I keep them for the most part, until they get to a point where I have to throw them away. Travelling with my hats screws them up. I have to get a specific hat box made, to where my hats can stay in a good condition. Travelling as much as I do… I’ll take anywhere from 15-20 hats with me at a time. Travelling with them over time, they start to lose their shape. Of course everywhere I go I try and make some time to shop and buy more.

Trina John-Charles/@metrinajc


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