In My Own Words, released in early 2006, was a major success for Ne-Yo. It was a number one album supported by two Top Ten singles and a third that peaked in the Top 20. As it kept gathering steam, the singer/songwriter/producer shrewdly continued to write for others: Rihanna's Top Ten "Unfaithful" and Beyoncé's number one "Irreplaceable" kept his profile on the rise through the end of the year. Indicating that he still has quality material to spare, Because of You comes just a little after a year after his debut, and it is just as solid. Though some of the accomplices remain, such as the Norwegian StarGate team (his partners on "So Sick," "Sexy Love," "Unfaithful," and "Irreplaceable") and Ron Feemster, the key to the album's potency and freshness is its differences from In My Own Words. None of the debut's singles were as upbeat as this album's lead single, "Because of You," a sophisticated yet youthful song for the dancefloor, one of many instances where it's evident that Ne-Yo has thoroughly absorbed Michael Jackson and Rod Temperton's rich vocal arrangements on Off the Wall. The album's closing quarter fulfills the contemporary ballad quota, but the preceding quarter provides imaginative and surprisingly adventurous arrangements, as well as some of the nastiest hooks. "Sex with My Ex," the wildest of these three songs, is somewhere between a screwed-and-chopped mix of Prince's "Delirious" and Diddy's "Last Night," its hard beat and synthesizer rays twisted into knots. It's also one of several moments where a newfound swagger is just as convincing as that of prime Usher. Making it to number one on your own, writing a major hit for one of the planet's most popular entertainers, and qualifying as the heir to R. Kelly can have that effect. Executive producer Jay-Z seems to know exactly what he has on his hands: on "Crazy," he completes his verse within the first 30 seconds, allowing his R&B franchise star to take over with no interruptions.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
feat: Jennifer Hudson