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Year of the Gentleman
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this album is less sexy than Ne-Yo's previous releases. Although it's driven by love songs, most of the lyrical content is perfectly age-appropriate for teens. In these songs, Ne-Yo sings respectfully about the women in his life, is honest with his conflicting emotions, and doesn't treat sex or relationships lightly. Women are portrayed very favorably, and independence, self-reliance, and confidence are promoted as highly prized attributes. There are some sensual lyrics, but nothing that would make a parent or teen blush if they listened to the album together.
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What's the story?
THE YEAR OF THE GENTLEMAN is Ne-Yo's third studio production and follows on his previous success, which includes seven Grammys. Here -- channeling the slick, polished crooners of half a century ago -- he's set out to make an album full of smooth, subtle tracks that embrace his sensitive and particular nature.
Is it any good?
Elements of artists ranging from the Bee Gees and Michael Jackson to Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra can be heard on this LP. And while Ne-Yo's silky vocals are light and airy, don't be fooled: This album also has a lot of depth. The songs aren't all about euphoric highs and melodramatic lows; instead, there's a lot of gray matter, and Ne-Yo sings about ecstasy coupled with dread, takes a pragmatic stance against heartbreak, and rails against the extravagant lifestyle so prevalent in today's pop culture. The first single, "Closer," is a dance groove that varies slightly from a typical love song, with lyrics like "She wants to own me, come closer, she says, 'come closer.'" And on the track "Why Does She Stay," he even plays the anti-crooner, going so far as to question why someone would want to love him (anyone want to respond?).
This "refined gentleman" persona might be a manufactured image, but musically it's a refreshing change from the typical suave seducer. Ne-Yo's mature songwriting should be credited with creating an interesting, insightful collection of down-to-earth romantic ballads and pop tunes. Rest assured, this definitely isn't another predictable R&B album.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how different artists treat and discuss women are treated in their songs. Do you think some love songs objectify women? What image do you think Ne-Yo is trying to create? Do you think he's trying to appeal to women more than men with this album? Does it work? Can you think of artists who specifically go after a male audience? Do female artists need to use more obvious sexuality to appeal to a male audience?