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No Sophomore Slump For R&B's Ne-Yo

Of the Oakland Press

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Some artists profess to be cool, calm and collected when following up a successful first album.

Not Ne-Yo.

The R&B singer and songwriter (real name Shaffer Smith) admits that he “definitely was nervous” about following up his doubleplatinum 2006 debut, “In My Own Words,” with this year’s “Because of You.” But his hot streak continued, with “Because of You” debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in May.

“I took a few chances musically,” notes the Arkansas-born Ne-Yo, 24, who now calls Atlanta home base. “I ventured a little out of what people have come to expect from me and, not that I’ve been out for years and years and years, but there’s this huge expectation. Once you do something that people enjoy, they want you to keep doing that.”

On “Because of You,” which has spawned the hit title track and “Do You,” Ne-Yo says he tried “to channel my inner Prince on a couple of the (songs). For me, this whole record is paying homage to the people I look up to in the business — Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Marvin Gaye,

etc., etc. I did songs in the realm of those artists and people are digging it, so it’s a cool thing.”

Ne-Yo remains busy as a collaborator in addition to his own recordings. He’s on the charts with Fabolous (“Make Me Better”) and Rihanna (“Hate That I Love You”) and is currently working on tracks for Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige, Usher, Celine Dion and others. He’s launching a record label and a fashion line and is looking at movie scripts.

“I’m just trying to be a mogul,” he says with a laugh. “I’m just trying to follow in the footsteps of Russell Simmons and all of those guys.

“By the grace of God, I have a great team of people that I work with. I don’t think it’ll be as much of a headache for me as it would be for somebody trying to do it all by themselves.”

Ne-Yo performs at 8 p.m. Friday (June 22nd) at the Chene Park Amphitheater, Chene and Atwater streets, Detroit. Tickets are $30-$40 pavilion, $20 lawn. Call (313) 393-0292 or visit www.cheneparkdetroit.com.

Web Site: www.cheneparkdetroit.com

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