Ya, I know I’m like 6 years late on this one, but I’m not too self conscious to admit that even in music, I tend to miss the up and coming. Either cause I’m out of touch, or too judgmental, or get bored easily. But sometimes, it’s when you look someone’s track record and achievements, its when you really sit up and take notice. I’m talking about Ne Yo.
There is so much talk of sustainability in the music industry nowadays, hell, not just in the music industry. Almost everything seems disposable. Everything shiny loses it luster. No matter though, right? Just you can just pick up another one. I’m old school in that sense. When I want something, I want it to be painful, I want to want it so bad that it’s too much to bear. Then I want to struggle for it. I want it to be out of my reach, until I reach a little bit further. Then, once it’s mine, I want to treasure it forever. I want it keep it no matter what, to polish it when it’s color fades, to make room for it even when I’ve run out of space. I am loyal. When I decide that something is worth it, I stick to it.
I want my music to be the same way. I don’t listen to music, I adopt it. My favorite musicians are my friends, they are part of my life. I want them to earn my respect, and I, in turn, want to earn theirs. If I could meet every musician who has been part of my life, I would not take their picture, or ask for their signature on a napkin. I would shake their hand and look them straight in the eye and say thank you.
This kind of love affair with music seems to happen less and less these days. I’m not sure because it’s that I’m getting older, because age makes us harder to please, because I feel like I’ve seen it all and no one’s bringing anything new that I click with, or because music these days is shit (although i think it’s important NOT to go around saying that about an entire art form just cause you dont dig it).
Ne Yo has brought it, and brought it good. This guy has got IT. This guy is here to stay, and for good reason. I don’t even really love classic R&B (forgive me gods of Music). I haven’t seem him live, I don’t own his albums, and it wasn’t that long ago that I discovered him. But the love is real people, this is love based on respect. This guy is the whole package, how often do you come across that? For me and my world, that’s a once in a generation occurrence. Sure, I’ve heard his music on the radio. It’s good, but it didn’t make me stop in my tracks. Sure, I’ve seen that he’s the biggest thing in music right now, not only his own but in collabs with other great artists as well. Ya, I noticed that his swag is unsurpassed (well, there is a clear MJ derivation going on here), nice but that’s not my vibe so much (I’m more Jazz Fingers!). But you watch his videos, his performances, and you see that he wants to perform for you, that this has been thought out, that this is intentional. I appreciate that.
What made me STOP COLLABORATE AND LISTEN was this interview I saw with him on a YouTube channel called Soul Culture titled Bringing Substance to Dance Music.
Damn. You can see right away that this guy has got integrity. This guy is intelligent. This guy is well spoken. He is pointed, emotional without being cheesy, and genuine. Very rare to do come away from a celeb interview feeling better off somehow – but lemme tell you, this guy has what to say and I gained something by hearing it.
Then I read up on him, and it just got better. Ya, so I’m clearly not the only one who notices it, but you wonder how many people out there really do appreciate it when a guy like this comes along, who can see past his sweet lips and wicked ensembles. A move to the Motown label – genius. Head of A&R at Motown – even better. I feel better knowing that this guy is in charge of making things happen out there in music land. He IS Show biz. He IS Theater. He IS Music. He is the Real Thing.
Then came the point of no return. I came across a reference to a performance in December 2008 at the Kennedy Center Honors during the tribute to Barbra Streisand; Ne-Yo sang and danced to the song Lover Come Back to Me, which she recorded on her second album in 1963. This for me is a threesome of epic proportions (me, Babs and Ne Yo), but my insanity aside, it also features a performer who is timeless and who is bordering on iconic. (Link here, recorded off of someone’s TV). They dont just pick anyone to perform for the Queen B, dont care how much swag you got, it’s GOT to be special.
A few excerpts from random interviews that have really struck me:
1. PETE: What’s the thinking behind you expanding genre-wise in that way?
NE-YO: “I’m basically trying to nail home that I’m not pop, I’m not R&B, I’m not country, I’m not jazz… I’m MUSIC! Which means that I can embody and encompass ALL of it! I mean, before I leave this world I do plan to do some alternative ROCK songs even! So my working with Tim McGraw and with (Tim’s wife and fellow country superstar) Faith Hill very much represented me stepping in that direction! And the whole process of writing with them I found INCREDIBLE! They invited me out to Nashville to hang out with them on their estate; they had a guy come in with a guitar; we’d sit there and start humming melodies; somebody’d grab a piece of paper to write down some lyrics – and there would be your SONG! And because I rarely – almost never – do it that way, I did find it very refreshing to take that whole different approach. As opposed to what I normally do – which is write a lyric and melody over a track already put together by a producer.”
2. He moved over to Motown not only as an artist but to take on the position of Senior Vice President of A&R. Despite his impressive track record, he’s still a little nervous about the gig.
“It didn’t help for them to tell me that the positon that I hold is the same position that Smokey Robinson had,” Ne-Yo shares. “If I know nothing, I know a little something about music. We’re doing things that record labels don’t really do anymore: artist development, making sure that they know how to talk, making sure that every time they touch the stage, it’s a moment. There’s a reason that there haven’t been very many icons to come out of the industry in the last 20 years. Record labels are not putting in the time. Anything worth it is going to be a little different. I just hope we live up [to Motown's reputation].”
Ne-Yo! You looking for something different? I got your different right here. I got it all, I am a Diva in the making, and you’d know it too if you saw it.
Readers – is there a place for a short Jewish white girl with alotta soul at Motown Records? Am I too out of the box for a major label? Or I am JUST what a label needs now a days? Someone who can bring it in a REAL and FUN and LASTING way. Invest in me Motown. I am it.