Ne-Yo on Today's Pop Hits: 'There's Simple and Then There's Stupid' (Q&A)
Ne-Yo Teams With Celine Dion for Duet: 'It Definitely Made Me Question My Vocal Ability'
These days, the fact that multiple titles accompany Ne-Yo’s name is entirely fitting of a singer who’s truly become pop-R&B royalty. Over a decade after being dropped by one storied major label (Columbia), he’s now running the A&R department of another (Motown) while simultaneously racking up hits for everyone from Pitbull (“Give Me Everything”) to Young Jeezy (“Leave You Alone”). At the same time, Ne-Yo is notching Top 10 singles for himself. Most recently, “Let Me Love You,” a tune he co-wrote with Sia that’s currently No. 24 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Curiously, his career started with a song of the same name, which spent nine weeks at No. 1. “I don't believe in coincidence or accidents,” he says. “Clearly somebody in heaven thought she and I were supposed to write together and ‘Let Me Love You’ was the end result.” Indeed, for Ne-Yo, it’s all about gut reaction when it comes to launching a hit -- from his decision whether to hold onto a song or give it to another artist (“The song kind of picks its own owner,” Ne-Yo says with Zen-like clarity, admitting it also comes down to who’s paying for studio time) to coming up with that undeniable hook. Says Ne-Yo: “Think about Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ -- that song isn't even in English! But there's something about it that makes you get up and want to do the damn dance! The way a song makes you feel is what makes a hit.”
THR: How do you decide whether to keep a song or to give it to another artist?
Ne-Yo: There are a couple of different ways [to decide]. If an artist comes to me and asks me to be a part of their project and then pays for studio time, within that time, whatever song is produced, by law it's supposed to go to that artist. Another way it happens is if I'm in the studio working for the sheer joy of doing what I do and I come up with something that sounds great but doesn't necessarily fit me, that's when I have the luxury of calling certain artists [to say], “Yo, I just did something that would be dope for you.” If it does fit me, then I keep it for myself.
THR: “Let Me Love You,” your most recent hit, you wrote with Sia. How did that collaboration come about?
Ne-Yo: Sia somehow met up with Stargate and they put together a track. She had already written the hook. So I just came behind her and wrote the verses and the rest of it and then that's how it came to be. I don't normally do a lot of co-writes but I have huge respect for Sia as an artist -- she has a voice that’s super soulful -- as well as a songwriter. I was trying to work with her for a long time before this happened. And because of scheduling, it just didn't permit it. … Sia comes from that school that makes you think a little bit -- in a way that triggers something in you as opposed to flat out saying it. That's what she does with her lyrics. The thought-provoking lyric is few and far between nowadays. From the point of view as songwriters and artists, it seems the consumer is getting dumber. So the songs being made are super-duper dumb and simple. Like there's simple and then there's stupid.