When Alicia Keys had to cancel a couple of shows early in her tour due to vocal problems, opening act Ne-Yo had an odd and unpleasant sense of deja vu.
“Alicia got sick two shows in and we started canceling stuff,” says the Arkansas-born R&B singer and songwriter, who’s real name is Shaffer Smith. “Now, you know the tour I was on before this was the R. Kelly tour, and I did two shows there and R. Kelly took it upon himself to kick us off that tour.
“So you gotta know when we did two shows with Alicia and she got sick and started canceling shows, I’m like, ‘OK, am I cursed? Is it me? What did I do wrong? Do I have this ‘two shows and you’re done’ curse on me or something?’ But then Alicia got well and she came back and we’re in stride and everything’s cool.”
Ne-Yo never has to cool his heels, however, thanks to a busy docket as both an artist and a songwriter. He has a pair of hit albums to his credit already, with a third, “Year of the Gentleman,” due out Aug. 15.
But the writer is just as audible, with a track record that includes Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown, Rihanna and Celine Dion. He wrote Jennifer Hudson’s new single, “Spotlight,” and has tracks on new albums by Usher and Leona Lewis, with pending material for Michael Jackson and Lindsay Lohan.
“I kind of view it like I have two part-time jobs,” says Ne-Yo, 28, who recently released “Closer,” the first single from “Year of the Gentleman.” “I don’t know which I’d put before the other; as soon as one stops, the other begins. I honestly couldn’t choose between the two anymore.
“The love I’ve gotten from the stage ... is a priceless feeling. But songwriting ... that’s my foundation. I do understand that at some point in the game there may just come a point where Ne-Yo ain’t hot anymore, but I could be 85 years old and write a song for somebody, so that will never go away. That’s the one thing I’m always gonna do for as long as God permits.”
Ne-Yo performs with Alicia Keys and Jordin Sparks perform at 8 p.m. Friday (June 6) at The Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $39.50-100. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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