Music Moment: Ne-Yo : NPR

Music writer Keithan Samuels discusses singer-songwriter Ne-Yo’s latest album, Self-explanatory.


And finally today, new music from singer-songwriter Ne-Yo. He has a new album out, his first since 2018. It’s called Self Explanatory. We wanted to hear more about the album, so we called up music writer Keithan Samuels. He is the editor-in-chief of Rated R&B. And we asked about some standout songs.

KEITHAN SAMUELS: So, “Handle Me Gently,” I think, when I first heard the album, that song immediately stood out to me.


NE-YO: (Singing) She said, love me soft, love me sweet. Love me like I’m all you’ll ever need. She said, touch me slowly, touch me slowly. Treat me gently. That’s all you need to know.

SAMUELS: Right now, it’s probably one of my favorite songs from the album. You know, it just takes me back to the early 90s, the new age of jack swing. And what I really love about this song in general is how it flows like this gentle breeze.


NE-YO: (singing) I want to be better. Girl, guide me and I’ll listen, oh

SAMUELS: In the song, he’s singing about, you know, his desire to stay in this relationship with his partner, even though he realizes he hasn’t been the best. And he’s just willing to do whatever he has to do to keep the relationship going.


NE-YO: (Singing) I can be selfish. Yeah, okay. Yeah, okay. I have a tendency to get in my own way. Honey, I’d love you no less than the day you said yes. So know that I hear you clearly when you say, hey.

SAMUELS: And I really feel that this song definitely needs the single treatment. It sounds so radio friendly. And again, it’s one of my favorite songs from the album.

(SOUNDBITE, “Don’t Love Me”)

NE-YO: (singing) And I really want to see you happy. I really want to see you confident, confident in your sex. I know you don’t feel that with me anymore.

SAMUELS: “Don’t Love Me” – this song sounds like a classic Ne-Yo album from his early years. It’s so raw and honest. And, you know, in the song, what I appreciate is, you know, he’s not in the right space to be in this committed relationship. But instead of leading his partner on, he knows that deep down, he wants the best for her. He wants her to be happy and so he is communicating that to her.

(SOUNDBITE, “Don’t Love Me”)

NE-YO: (Singing) I can’t be happy for you. I leave. You’ll be better for it, girl.

SAMUELS: So in the second verse, he kind of admits some of his mistakes and gives some examples of what he’s done, and he gives it in this kind of Roddy Ricch cadence, especially Roddy’s “Box.” And I really like how he changes the flow in the second verse.

(SOUNDBITE, “Don’t Love Me”)

NE-YO: (Singing) Running after all these hits, steady, telling you I’m not. Lying to your face became, too easy for me, even though I love you so much, hey. All I’m gonna do (ph) is make you hate me. I broke your self-esteem and made you feel crazy. So leave.

SAMUELS: And again, Ne-Yo does really well with split records. This is his bread and butter, although he is very good at other things as well. But he really praises these division records. And “Don’t Love Me” is another example of that.


NE-YO: (Singing) Last night your name came up in conversation. I was told that you found love in a new place. And I swear it crossed my mind…

SAMUELS: So “What If” is kind of a reflective song where Ne-Yo looks back on this relationship and he wonders what things would be like if they didn’t leave him. And I really like the contrast between the bluesy lyrics and the dance-friendly production. I’ve always loved sad songs that still evoke this feeling of happiness through the production, and I think “What If” does that.


NE-YO: (Singing) What if we never let go? What if we were too young to know what it was? We’re getting cold like before – tell me, wasn’t that enough? What if…

SAMUELS: Again Ne-Yo emerges into the arena of dance-pop that still has its roots in R&B. And we’ve heard him do it before on songs like “Closer,” so this is definitely one of my favorites, too.

MARTIN: It was music critic Keithan Samuels discussing Ne-Yo’s latest album, “Self Explanatory.” It’s out now.


NE-YO: (Singing) What if we never let go?

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