Ne-Yo: Whitney Houston Wanted to Show People She Was Happy

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Ne-Yo, 32, isn't just a Grammy Award-winning singer, but also an accomplished songwriter who's penned hits for Beyonce, Britney Spears, Rihanna, Whitney Houston, and more. He recently even worked on new music with Houston that they never had a chance to complete, since she was found dead of undetermined causes on February 11 in Beverly Hills. "The memory that will stay with me forever," Ne-Yo revealed to omg!, "is we're all sitting there and Whitney says, 'Here's what I need you to do for me: I need music that lets the world know that I'm happy. With everything that's gone down with [ex-husband Bobby Brown] and all that, I need the world to know that I'm not bitter, I'm not depressed, I'm happy. I got my God, my kid, and I got my music, and that's all I need. I need the music to say that.' Those are the kind of songs that we worked on. I honestly wish that we would have gotten to finish them."

Houston, one of many musical ladies Ne-Yo admires, was among those featured on "VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Music," which he hosted last month. While Ne-Yo noted that some of his favorite artists, such as Ms. Knowles and Mary J. Blige made the list (#3 and #9, respectively), he would have included more soul singers such as Anita Baker and Shirley Murdock, strong female voices he listened to often growing up because they were favorites of his mother, Lorraine Smith.

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The musician, who recently flexed his acting skills in the George Lucas-produced movie "Red Tails," about the Tuskegee Airmen, had an opportunity to reminisce about his childhood last month. He surprised about 600 students at Aki Kurose Middle School Academy in Seattle for winning non-profit Get Schooled's nationwide attendance challenge by improving their attendance 3.7 percent in just seven weeks. "The one thing I can guarantee will happen if you don't show up is nothing," Ne-Yo explained. "It's cool that these kids understand that, and that the faculty of this school put that in these kids."

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So what was Ne-Yo like back in his school days? He wasn't a jock, he said, as evidenced by his turn in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game last month, but that doesn't mean that he wasn't friendly with those who were. "I've always been an artistic guy," he explained. "I was the guy that the jock would come to to write a poem for his girlfriend because he just got caught doing something stupid. That was me."

Today, Ne-Yo is still a lot like that. It's just that his poems usually end up as lyrics for his songs. Fans can expect to hear a new collection of them on an as-yet-untitled album set to be released in June. "This is a very honest album for me. I'm telling a lot of truths that are either going to make people love me for my honesty or hate me for being me, you know?" Ne-Yo confessed. "[It's] 90 percent R&B with some dance stuff sprinkled in here and there. I know I have an audience for that, and I love my newfound fans in that realm, but at the end of the day I'm an R&B guy. So you can expect to hear some soulful joints on there mixed in with the fun dance stuff."

Sounds like a formula for another hit.

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