Monday, November 29, 2010
Album Review: Ne-Yo - Libra Scale (3.5/5)
On 2008's rather pleasing Year of the Gentleman, R&B singer-songwriter Ne-Yo offered up a winning mix of dance tunes and love songs in praise of the opposite sex. For his efforts, and his falsetto vocal, he drew many comparisons to the infamous gloved one, Michael Jackson. Libra Scale varies little from that album's musical sound--it sounds almost exactly the same actually--save for one key missing element: spark. Except for a few upbeat songs, the album is underwhelmed by its slow songs, many of which lack much in the way of interesting melody or lyrics.
Lyrics, in particular are disappointing here. Although not a strong suit for Gentleman, I was expecting something interesting this time, given Libra Scale's apparent concept: a trio of garbage men, including Ne-Yo, become superheroes to protect their city in exchange for forgoing love; however, Ne-Yo can't help himself and falls in love anyway, putting the whole thing in jeopardy. I only know this, however, because I read Wikipedia and the comic included in the liner notes, for the songs themselves hint little at this. Thematically, the songs just sound like typical R&B-pop fare.
Things start off promisingly with "Champagne Life," a mid-tempo kin to "Miss Independent," the best track from his last album. Unfortunately, after that the album declines and stays that way for awhile. "Makin' a Movie" is also uptempo, but not a very interesting song. Much of the album's middle consists of mostly uninteresting slow songs until you get to the charged dance pop hit, "Beautiful Monster," but by then the album's almost over.
Not everything in the middle is bad though. "Genuine Only" has a compellingly uplifting melody that recalls a romantic John Barry film score (there's my soft spot for John Barry orchestration rearing itself again. Tsk tsk). "One in a Million" has a sexy mid-tempo groove and I like the romantic, retro sound of "Know Your Name," but the song goes on too long without much variation, ultimately losing my interest. "Telekinesis" finds our superhero protagonist having used his superpowers to lure some chick to his "gentleman's lair" for some hanky panky. Sounds like a superhero's ethical lapse to me. Sadly for our hero, the album ends on kind of a downer with "What Have I Done?," his girl having apparently turned into the "Beautiful Monster" of the hit single. What a shame.
I think I may be being a little too hard on this album. I don't dislike it. It's just that I'm a bit disappointed, as I was hoping for something really great, and the results just don't live up to that. The melodies are generally silky smooth, and Ne-Yo sounds as good as ever. I'm still waiting for him to really live up to these Michael Jackson comparisons though and give us a real "thriller" of an album. Does he have it in him? We'll see.
Best: Beautiful Monster, Champagne Life, Genuine Only