"To the left, to the left." All the ladies seem to know those six words, the opening lines of Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable," which is one of the most-spun records in the country right now. Oddly enough, the girl-power anthem was co-written by a man — but not just any man, a hitmaker in his own right: Ne-Yo.
"Beyoncé's 'Irreplaceable' is doing really well, that [song] is racing up the charts," Ne-Yo said recently in New York. "She had some stuff that she wanted to get off her chest, and that's what she did. An artist's art really only has to make sense to the artist, and if the rest of the world catches on, that's cool too. If they don't, hey, 'This is my art, leave me alone.' "
The world seems to be catching on. B's album, B'Day, has been shooting back up the charts — it'll hit #6 next week on the Billboard albums chart, selling over 173,000 copies — and "Irreplaceable" is also the #3 song in the country.
"Beyoncé writes [for] herself, but if she has somebody writing something for her, she's not going to sing it if it doesn't make sense to her," Ne-Yo explained, providing some insight into collaborating with Ms. Knowles. "It's gotta be something that holds some weight with her."
Judging by his latest work, Ne-Yo's pen is worth more than its weight in gold and platinum. He also wrote all of Beyoncé's lines on the song "Hollywood," from Jay-Z's Kingdom Come LP.
"That's one I'm really proud of," he said of "Hollywood." "The track, I had never messed with anything like that. It's up [tempo], kinda retro. I was like, 'What am I gonna do with this one?' So I went back into the mental banks. The inspiration, I got from Sheila E. Remember 'The Glamorous Life,' how that sounded? That's the sound I wanted for that track.
"The song is basically about how Hollywood could be heaven on earth or absolute hell," he added. "It's for some people, it's not for everybody. It's basically talking about the ups and downs of what the business is, and Beyoncé is definitely a person that has been through that."
Ne-Yo pulled double duty on Kingdom Come, singing on his longtime supporters' "Minority Report" (see "Jay-Z Calls Ne-Yo's #1 Debut 'A Wonderful Thing'; R&B Newcomer Dancing Up A Storm"). "When Jay first said he was gonna put another record together, he told he wanted me to be a part of it," Ne-Yo said. "It was a really cool thing, but a scary thing ... But a cool thing. I didn't know what to expect. But it was a situation just like the first time I met him. I didn't know what type of person he was.
"He turned out to be a regular dude," Ne-Yo continued. "The session was a regular session: get in, vibe with the track for a minute, you feel something, write it down. Get in the booth. He explained what the song was about, what he wanted it to feel like."
Ne-Yo said that despite all his writing assignments (Ruben Studdard, possibly Britney Spears and Enrique Iglesias), he is working on his own album as well. He wants to put out a single no later than February and release the LP sometime in the spring of '07. According to him, the delayed start of the Scream Tour 5 — which also features Omarion, Yung Joc and Jibbs — from late November to early December was a blessing in disguise (see "Scream Tour Organizer Eyeing Chris Brown, Ne-Yo For Fifth Installment"). Instead of running around from city to city and sneaking in time to record in a hotel room, he actually can lock in a studio for the time being.
"I want to sit and focus so this album comes out as good as the first album was, plus more," he said.
Scream Tour 5 dates, according to the tour's publicist:
- 12/15 - Miami, FL @ AmericanAirlines Arena
- 12/17 - Atlanta, GA @ Philips Arena
- 12/21 - Hampton, VA @ Hampton Coliseum
- 12/22 - Philadelphia, PA @ Wachovia Center
- 12/23 - New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden
- 12/26 - Detroit, MI @ Joe Louis Arena
- 12/28 - Rosemont, IL @ Allstate Arena
- 12/29 - Cleveland, OH @ Wolstein Center at CSU
- 12/30 - Baltimore, MD @ 1st Mariner Arena
- 12/31 - Washington, DC @ Verizon Center