2021-03-08T10:08:34-05:00 2021-03-08T01:54:25-05:00

Ne-Yo talks LEGO, new music, and 15-year anniversary

Three-time Grammy winner Ne-Yo has left a huge impact on the music industry since his 2006 debut. Now, the veteran just teamed up with LEGO's first human mini-figure DJ L.L.A.M.A for the high-energy single "Shake". Between the new single, being a host on World Dance, and the 15th anniversary of his debut album In My Own Words, Ne-Yo is back and better than ever. In preparation for a new year of music, the singer/songwriter gave some details on "Shake", his success, and what's in store. 

One of the first human LEGO mini-figures to be signed by Universal Music label Astralwerks, DJ L.L.A.M.A dropped the Latin-infused track "Shake" back on February 19th. Leaning on vocals from Ne-Yo and Carmen DeLeon, the track marked a new milestone for the LEGO group. Well-known for not only his undeniable talent but his ability to seamlessly crossover into other genres, "Shake" is no different for the singer. Being the family man that he is, teaming up with LEGP would be the perfect way to get in good with his kids. "Everything was already set-up when they called me for the collab and my kids love LEGO so this was the perfect opportunity to get some "cool dad" points", he said. Better known for his R&B vocals, "Shake" could be considered a unique and fresh avenue for some but just another day for Ne-Yo. "I feel like people readily identify me with R&B but forget about songs like "Beautiful Monster" and "Closer". I've definitely dabbled in the pop world so this was nothing for me", he reflected on some of his past hits. Giving a nod to the "Shake" songwriter, Ryan Tedder, Ne-Yo found some relief in not having to create for the song but instead, just show up."And again, "cool dad" points".

There aren't a lot of artists that can go toe-to-toe with Ne-Yo's pen game, having penned tracks for Beyoncé, Rihanna, Celine Dion, and so-on. To be able to crossover and maintain a high level of success is no easy feat but Ne-Yo continues to go beyond expectation. "A lot of people with regard to music and the creation of music, get caught up on the car rather than the gas. It's about the melody and the lyrics. These are the two things that hold a genre together. So when you make those two elements memorable instead of trying to make an R&B or a pop song, you can focus on just making a great song", he explained. Take these keys and run. 

Stepping away from music, Ne-Yo can be found on the TV scene now. In addition to being a judge on "World of Dance", the jack of all trades has been pocketing some film and television credits. Although he did drop his single "U 2 Luv" with Jeremih towards the end of last year, the studio has been fairly quiet. Bouncing back with "Shake", he just might be ready to get back in the game. "I've been here a long time and I did take a step back to really focus on family but I'm definitely getting back in the ring and I'm finishing up on my album as we speak", he said. "Music is woven into my DNA and I don't think TV will ever take that place", he confirmed his comeback.

If you weren't around for his debut album In My Own Words, you can appreciate the 15th-anniversary edition. Released back in 2006, the no-skips album boasted hit tracks like "So Sick", "When You're Mad", and "Sexy Love". Since that release, Ne-Yo has consistently dropped albums that continued to show both his growth as an artist and personally. Now celebrating the 15th anniversary of his success, he reflected a bit on the journey. "It was a hell of a ride, the parts that I can remember. I keep getting asked what I would tell my younger self and I wouldn't tell myself a damn thing. Just ride the ride. I had ups and downs but I definitely appreciated the ups more because of the downs", he said. "What feels good, is that after 15 years, people still give a damn about Ne-Yo", he continued. More than deserving of his flowers, he applauded the greatness that was In My Own Words but continued to remain hungry to create new moments of greatness. "You can't spend your career, chasing one moment of greatness because then you'll have nothing but cheap imitations of that moment. You don't get greatness from recreation, you get it by creating the next best thing". Well said. 

Moving on to new moments with a new album, the artist broke down the creative process for the upcoming release. "This album has taken some time to put together. I've been in my head a little bit, trying to keep up cause the industry is changing. But I got out of that because my job has never been to sell records. I'm an artist and my job is to make sure that my art is as meaningful and as passionate as possible. That's my only obligation", he said. Hinting at a potential collab with Trippie Redd, he's definitely doing his best to keep up with the times. Crazy? I know. Deeming the album The Escape, he's hoping that the new project will give listeners to get away from the current crises of our world. 

Adjusting to the change that has come with the new generation, he recognizes and appreciates that artists are finally getting their power back. "When I started, if you didn't get a record deal, it was hard to get anything played. You had gatekeepers but now you can make your own music, upload it, and just wait on your check. You don't need a record label anymore. As long as you grind and hustle, you can do this and that was never a thing before", he said. With so much knowledge and experience, he has begun transitioning into mentorship. Working with independent and burgeoning artists, Ne-Yo is working on his own series of digital open-mic EP Where There's Smoke. Collabbing with music streaming app LüM, he is finding new and innovative ways to back to the younger generations. Finally relaxing and enjoying the fruits of his labor, it's become more than just the music for Ne-Yo. With no signs of stopping any time soon, we can only imagine how are he'll go.

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Interview · Main Stage · R&B


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