Ne-Yo is no doubt one of the most successful entertainers to have emerged in the music business within the last decade and a half. From penning chart-topping songs for A-list musicians to scaling the heights of the industry with hits of his own, the Arkansas native has already left an indelible mark on the global musical landscape at the tender age of 30-some years.
But you probably knew all that already. The spotlight has steadily shone on the singer, composer, dancer, and actor, ever since his first hit “Let Me Love You,” which was performed by Mario. And even though there have been numerous articles written about the R&B superstar, we felt it was only right for us to add one more since songwriters form the main core of our business, and he is one of the best in the industry. Plus, after receiving numerous requests from our followers for a piece on the Anime and Cartoon Network lover, we couldn’t NOT write about him.
Shaffer Chimere Smith was the name his parents gave to him at birth, but the hit magnet songwriter and artist became known worldwide by the moniker Ne-Yo. He started out in music from an early age while living in Las Vegas. In fact, in 1993 while in his early teens, Smith had his first filing with the U.S. Copyright Office for a musical work called "BeBe Kids."
Later on in high school, he was part of a boy band, Envy, which eventually broke up in the year 2000. Ne-Yo was also signed briefly to Columbia Records, but that association didn’t bear much fruit.
For a while after that, he committed to writing songs for other people, a move which eventually paid off when Mario shut down the charts in 2004 with “Let Me Love You” and opened doors for Smith to re-introduce himself to the world as Ne-Yo. As he has mentioned in interviews, that name was first given to him early in his career as a joke by producer Big D Evans, who was of the opinion that the then prodigy saw music in a similar way that Neo (Keanu Reeves) sees the Matrix (in the Matrix movies, that is).
That’s a compliment in itself and an apt description that has manifested in Ne-Yo’s music throughout his career. And while he has been a bit low-key in recent times, the three-time Grammy award winner has been making moves, including tying the knot and fathering two babies with the gorgeous Crystal Renay (he has two older children from a previous relationship as well). The beauty managed to steal his heart after Ne-Yo reached out to her for her expertise on one of his music projects, and they ended up becoming more than just business buddies. Needless to say, the heartthrob seems to have settled well into marriage life since the early-2016 wedding, which left many potential suitors thinking, “lucky girl.”
In addition to becoming Mr. Ne-Yo, the singer has worn the hat as a judge on America’s Got Talent in 2016, and most recently on World Of Dance. He has also made corporate investments in a tech start-up and has stated that he wants to make Silicon Valley more diverse, one investment at a time.
Buuut…through all that, the R&B/pop crooner has managed to deliver new music. Good Man, the singer's latest effort, was described by Forbes contributor, Hugh McIntyre, as one of the 8 most anticipated R&B albums of 2017. Of course, the album was unnamed at the time and didn't hit the shelves until June 2018, but with singles such as "Push Back" and "Nights Like These" receiving strong support from music lovers, the wait seemed worth it for many.
With that said, there isn’t much that can be said that hasn’t already been written about the “Closer” singer. But we can still re-highlight some important facts about him which, you never know, could open your eyes to a few points that might add value to your own career as a songwriter. After all, the music business is a learning game, and what better way to boost your own skills than by studying the best and trying to add their top attributes to your work.
So, here goes: 5 Ne-Yo facts that showcase his musical genius.
The Songs he’s Written for Other Artists
“Let Me Love You” was the first huge hit penned by Ne-Yo to be sung by another artist, but even after launching his own singing career, he continued to write songs for other musicians which took them to the top of the charts. Some of the most notable smashes he’s written or at least co-created include Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable,” which went on to be nominated for “Record of the Year” at the 50th Grammy Awards, “Take a Bow” by Rihanna, which became the Barbadian singer’s third number one single on the Billboard Charts, and “Spotlight” by Jennifer Hudson, which snagged two Grammy Awards at the 2009 staging.
He also has songwriting credits on tracks for Keri Hilson, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion, and many of the who’s-who in mainstream music today. To top it off, he also wrote songs for MJ - as in the great Michael Jackson - who he says was his idol. Ne-Yo was actually handpicked by “The Gloved One” to write songs for his comeback album. Sadly, however, Jackson passed away before any of those were able to come to light and Ne-Yo has since said he doesn’t know what to do with them.
Ne-Yo has collaborated on songs (performing, not just writing) with some of the biggest names in music. These include his duet with Rihanna “Hate That I Love You,” his anthemic recordings with Pitbull, “Time of Our Lives” and “Give Me Everything” (also featuring Afrojack and Nayer), as well as “Make Me Better” with rap star Fabolous, and “Angels Cry” with the inimitable Mariah Carey.
Another interesting point to note as it relates to his collaborations is the different genres he has touched on, including African pop with Diamond Platnumz on the song “Marry You,” reggae with Shaggy on “You Girl,” island fusion on "Push Back" with Stefflon Don and Bebe Rexha, electronic with David Guetta and Akon on “Play Hard,” and of course his hip-hop collabs with rappers such as Young Jeezy, Juicy J and 50 Cent.
His Work in Film
The songwriting prowess of Ne-Yo has helped him to extend his skills to film, both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. Checking out his profile on IMDB reveals that he has lent his talent to the soundtracks of “The Princess and the Frog,” “Precious,” “Pitch Perfect,” and “The Internship,” along with song placements in numerous other productions. We won’t even mention his growing collection of appearances in movies and TV shows.
Lyrical Creativity and Versatility
One of the hallmarks of a good songwriter is one who can bring to life different subjects and styles through their lyrics. While many of his tracks are within the context of relationships, as are more than 90% of all songs, Ne-Yo has used his lyrics to depict a wide range of scenarios that ensure his songs all don’t sound the same.
He has gone from being heartbroken after a breakup (“So Sick”), to celebrating after a breakup (“Go On Girl”), and from hailing the independent woman in “Miss Independent” to writing about the good life in “Champagne Life.” Within all that, he has sad songs, upbeat club bangers, edgy tracks bordering on risqué, and thoughtful tunes that get you thinking. In short, he’s got it all; hardly surprising considering that his influences include Luther Vandross, R. Kelly, Usher, MJ, and Babyface.
From major awards to selling out venues, Ne-Yo has achieved plenty during his career. Topping the list are his three Grammys (obviously): Best Contemporary R&B Album in 2008 for Because Of You, Best R&B Song in 2009 for “Miss Independent,” and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for the same song, also in 2009. He has also bagged trophies at the Soul Train, Billboard, and BET Award shows. Apart from awards, Ne-Yo has also managed impressive feats such as having his debut album start life at the number one spot and having several of his singles reach the top ten. He has sold millions of records around the world as well.
What’s Next for Ne-Yo?
With Good Man now available to fans and his role as a judge on the new talent show, World of Dance, it's left to be seen what Ne-Yo has up his sleeves next.
An epitome of success when it comes on to songwriters who made the transition to commercial recognition, he is also proof of what can happen if you put in the work. In one interview with Dale Kawashima of Songwriter Universe, Ne-Yo shared how he got his first big break because he was ready with a catalog of music to share when the opportunity came knocking.
“When I met with Def Jam, I hadn’t planned on auditioning for them. But the deal happened because I had the songs and I was ready to perform,” said Ne-Yo.
Perfect example that no one becomes successful overnight. He was prepared and the rest is history. If anything, Ne-Yo can be described as the songwriter’s songwriter. If you’re looking around for songwriters to emulate, you might want to take a closer look at how he’s gone about building his career. « return to blog