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R&B’s lovechild

One year after his platinum-selling debut, Ne-Yo is back and sure to avoid the sophomore jinx with his follow-up album, Because of You. Ne-Yo covers the usual Rhythm & Blues bases of love gained, love lost and everything in between, but with a flair that is reminiscent of classic R&B greats.

The title track, “Because of You,” follows an infatuated Ne-Yo. It details his addiction to a woman he proclaims to be the “sweetest drug.” The infectious melody and catchy beat make it hard for the listener to ignore its addictive charm. Influences of Michael Jackson are apparent, but Ne-Yo still manages to inject a lyrical charm all his own into the track.

Ne-Yo’s borrowing is more evident on the Prince-influenced tracks “Addicted” and “Sex With My Ex.” Both feature a lyrical style laden with falsettos, spoken/sung lyrics and subject matter raunchy enough to make the most sexually adventurous blush.

The more original of the two is “Addicted,” which features horns, organs and heavy percussion with such intensity that it reinforces the subject matter of sexual addiction. Ne-Yo starts off apologetic about his voracious sexual appetite, but by the chorus, he becomes arrogant: “I’m not addicted to sex / But girl I guarantee that if you lay with me / You just might be.”From the crying electric guitar and synthesizer, to Ne-Yo’s continuous yowling, “Sex With My Ex” drips of Purple Rain. Ne-Yo boldly declares, “Girl what’s your problem / I think you know good and well ain’t nobody stroking like this.” While the song is not horrible, it lacks originality. Ne-Yo seems to try to make up for this absence with shock value.

With “Say It,” Ne-Yo achieves the perfect mix of Michael Jackson, Prince and his own style. Ne-Yo combines equal parts of sexuality, sensual lyrics and smooth production on this track as he begs his lover to be more vocal in bed. Ne-Yo sensually purrs on the chorus, “Girl why don’t you tell me / what you / want me / to do / to you / girl won’t you say it, say it, say it.”

Old school R&B’s influence is again heard on the duet “Leaving Tonight,” featuring Jennifer Hudson. The song chronicles a lovers’ quarrel stemming from a lack of trust in the relationship. But Jennifer’s character wants to know how she can trust a man who claims not to be cheating when she croons, “Her name and number is in your phone / she’s even got a ringtone / You care to explain that?”

Ne-Yo ends the disc with “Go on Girl,” the male version to Beyonce’s hit “Irreplaceable.” The production and lyrics are similar – they used the same production team and Ne-Yo wrote both songs – but Ne-Yo once again makes it his own with lyrics such as, “Not a single salty tear / Not a feeling in my chest / Baby I’m feeling no stress / I’m too fly be depressed.”

Though Because of You is heavily influenced by other artists, it does not feel like a cheap imitation. Ne-Yo manages to update a classic sound while striving to make it unique to him, and he almost succeeds. With time and maturation as an artist, he will continue to be a threat on the charts.