Songs from his sophomore LP, Because of You, are still staples on the radio, but Ne-Yo is already on to the next episode. On Friday, he released a new song to radio called "Closer," and Monday night at Jay-Z's Rock the Mic studios, the singer told MTV News that he is deep into the recording process of a third opus, which is currently called Year of the Gentleman.
"I'm trying to take it back to where you couldn't walk out of the house unless you looked your best," he explained of the album title. "Back in the day of, say, the Rat Pack and Nat King Cole ... any picture you ever see, they're suited and everything is right from top to bottom. Not saying it has to be a suit, 'cause clothes don't make the man — it's the attitude and person. The music needs to personify that. A lot of this music [on the album], some of it is gonna be urban, some of it is gonna be pop. Some is gonna ride that middle.
"The third [LP] is more of the good [music]," he added. "The second album proved I'm here to stay. I won a Grammy for that one. So, I'm here to win more Grammys. At the same time, I love what it is I do, so [this is] another excuse for me to pen more facets of my personality."
"Closer" has the intensity of a hip-hop/R&B hybrid but flirts with the thump of trance music, showcasing the vibe Ne-Yo's been on lately.
" 'Closer' is a song about being in the club. It's a club record," he said. "It's slightly left of what it is I normally do. You can almost call it a dance record. I'm a lover of melody, music in all aspects. I've been on that kick lately, listening to a lot of European stuff. I dig a lot of it. I said, 'I'mma try it,' and it worked."
"I can feel her on my skin," he sings on the record. "I can taste her on my tongue/ She's the sweetest taste of sin/ The more I get, the more I want."
"It's basically me being infatuated with a girl, and she's dancing," Ne-Yo explained, leaning on the control board as he elaborated on his meaning. "For whatever reason, you can't take your eyes off of her." It just so happens that the girl is digging Ne-Yo as much as he is her, so she gestures for him to join her on the dance floor.
In real life, plenty of women are calling on Ne-Yo. He wrote Janet Jackson's "Rock With U" and Rihanna's latest single "Take a Bow." And most surprising: He was asked to create a new Lindsay Lohan record.
"I didn't necessarily pick that," he smiled. "It was brought to me. Lindsay Lohan's people said, 'We would like for you to put a song together for her.' I just viewed it as a challenge. I don't know how to write for Lindsay Lohan. I don't know what Lindsay Lohan is doing right now. But it's a challenge, so I'mma give her my best. I gave her a song, and I think they really, really like it. Me and [Norwegian producing team] Stargate put something together, and she likes it."
Two more women coming into Ne-Yo's professional life lately are Jordin Sparks and Alicia Keys, with whom he'll start touring in April. As for his one-time tourmate R. Kelly, Ne-Yo is still upset about being booted off their outing, but he dismissed the insinuation that Kelly is dissing him on the mixtape song "I'm a Beast."
"He never said my name," Ne-Yo laughed. Until the Pied Piper calls him out, Ne-Yo said he can't take the threat of a dis seriously.