NEW YORK — When Grammy winners’ schedules don’t match with Ne-Yo’s busy itinerary, he doesn’t just sit idle. He finds an Oscar winner to work with in the meantime.
“The lovely Miss Jennifer Hudson did a song with me,” he said earlier this week while visiting the MTV offices. Although he wouldn’t reveal all the guest stars on his April 24 LP Know Me, he did talk about getting with the silver screen’s Effie White. “We did a duet together and it came out very hot. The name of the song is called ‘Leavin’ Tonight’ and — my management hates when I say this, but it’s one of those songs where I am clearly being out-sang and I know it. But because it is Jennifer Hudson and she has such an amazing voice, it’s just an honor to be on the track with her. The way that the story plays out, the bigness of her voice and the regularity of my voice, the contrast between the two is like night and day and it makes perfect sense.”
Ne-Yo says he’s also been working with Hudson on her forthcoming debut album.
“As of right now, nobody knows who Jennifer Hudson is,” he explained. “Everybody knows who Effie is because every song [Hudson] performs are the songs Effie did on the movie. [With the LP, we're] trying to establish who Jennifer Hudson is.”
Ne-Yo says he still has some heat up his sleeve for Britney Spears and Whitney Houston, but time has not allowed him to get in the lab with them (see “Ne-Yo Penning Comeback Tracks For Britney, Whitney” ).
“There were three or four studio sessions she did not show up to,” Ne-Yo said about Spears. “I understand she’s fighting her demons right now. Everybody has the right to fight their demons and do what they got to do to heal up and get right. She’s doing that and I’mma keep on moving, doing what I’m doing. Once she’s ready, I’m a phone call away. She knows that. Her people know that. … But as of right now, don’t worry about the music thing, don’t worry about the tabloids, just get yourself right. It’s obvious that there’s something wrong. She’s got some devil in her and it needs to be exorcised. God bless you, Britney.”
As far as producers go, Ne-Yo says once again his lack of time prevented him from working with all the fellas he wanted to. Timbaland and Jermaine Dupri were on his wish list but didn’t make the cut. Ne-Yo did get mostly everyone from his first album though — such as Stargate — and mixed in some newer talent like Scyience, who worked on Jay-Z’s “Hollywood,” Omarion’s “Entourage” and John Legend’s new single “P.D.A.”
Collaborations aside, Ne-Yo has already dived into a Know Me video, for “All Because of You.” He gets freaky in the clip and follows in the footsteps of Humpty Hump, the fake lead singer of ’90s hip-hop group Digital Underground who “once got busy in a Burger King bathroom.”
“The video is basically what the song is about: being with somebody that, for whatever reason, you shouldn’t be with. But you can’t walk away because you got an addiction, a crutch,” he said with a devilish grin. “The video starts off with me and my girlfriend. We laughing and joking and we go out to the club together. We’re dancing. Then I am approached by the seductress. The powers of the seductress are so strong, I wind up following her to the bathroom and doing some things I probably shouldn’t do. In the club! It’s based on true events. … We went with this for a first single because it’s a very relatable subject.”
(Ne-Yo laughed when asked if he meant that everybody could relate to some lavatory-stall action or just being caught up with somebody that was no good in general. He answered the latter.)
The longtime Las Vegas resident also said he really wanted to dish out more firsthand experiences on his second project.
“I’m calling it Know Me because with this album I definitely want people to get into me as a person more,” he rationalized. “The first album [In My Own Words] did really well, 3 million [copies] sold worldwide. But with that album, I think people got to know my songwriting ability. Nobody got to know Ne-Yo the person. Or even Shaffer [Smith, his real name], the person behind Ne-Yo. So this time I went a lot more personal. I dove into my personal life and put it out there.”
With that in mind, it’s only right that the singer present the album in a more personal setting as well. Ne-Yo says he’s going with smaller, House of Blues-type venues for his initial tour and might branch into bigger places down the road.