R&B star Ne-Yo talks tv drama Empire and the influence of the late Prince

A decade after Ne-Yo rose to stardom with his velvety yet infectious R&B, the singer is finding a renewed outlet through a fresh medium — television. Ne-Yo was brought in as co-writer of the music for the continuing second season of Empire, the blockbuster drama on Fox television about the schisms within a founding family […]

A decade after Ne-Yo rose to stardom with his velvety yet infectious R&B, the singer is finding a renewed outlet through a fresh medium — television.

Ne-Yo was brought in as co-writer of the music for the continuing second season of Empire, the blockbuster drama on Fox television about the schisms within a founding family of hip-hop entrepreneurs.

The 36-year-old singer and songwriter — who surprised fans by also acting on the series playing himself — hailed the show for merging songs and storylines.

The result, Ne-Yo said, is a devoted fan base eager to buy the stream of singles released off Empire, which has been renewed for a third season.

Empire has found a way to make people pay for music again,” he said,

Ne-Yo said that he sought to strike a balance in creating music for Empire that had both a classic and contemporary feel.

“I kind of wanted to go both ways. As ‘now’ as it could be without just being trendy, and you always want to add that element of timelessness.”

Ne-Yo, whose real name is Shaffer Smith, first found stardom indirectly as the writer of the 2004 hit Let Me Love You by the singer Mario.

He jokes that, “for two years, I was that dude who wrote that Mario song.” He then made his own name by with a string of solo hits such as the mellow but danceable Because of You, So Sick and the album stomper Closer.

Ne-Yo success also extended to the region with numerous UAE appearances both in clubs and festivals. He was last spotted in the capital in December with performance at Yas Island’s MAD nightclub.

More intriguing, is Ne-Yo’s rabid fan base in Japan. He says there is an artistic link between his craft and the forward thinking music production found in J-Pop’s.

“I can go to Japan and listen to the radio and — having no idea what’s being sung about — the melodies and the way they wrap the melodies around the music, I can relate to that,” he said.

Ne-Yo won new respect in Japan in 2011 when he refused to cancel a tour after the tsunami tragedy, instead donating proceeds to charity. However, he admitted to being nervous the first time he played in Japan.

“I was shaking because I pride myself on being able to communicate with my audience and I don’t speak Japanese and I knew they didn’t speak English, and I was like — what the hell am I going to do?” he recalled.

“So I got up there and I think I gave a thumbs-up and they gave me a thumbs-up back. And from the first note, they sang every word — in English — and it blew me away. I was floored by that. It kind of proved the power of music to me that day,” he said.

In a recent performance at the music festival Grammy Park in New York, Ne-Yo paid tribute to Prince by entering the stage to a medley of the late pop legend’s hits. He also covered the Purple One’s The Beautiful Ones, with his band bringing jazzy touches on trombone and trumpet while Ne-Yo reached Prince’s vocal highs with his “love symbol” rotating behind on a screen.

Ne-Yo called Prince one of his “four kings” along with Stevie Wonder and the late greats Michael Jackson and Sammy Davis junior

“Prince was getting booed offstage for the first few years of his career doing the exact same thing that made him the icon that he is,” Ne-Yo said.

“That takes courage — to just be who you are and wait for the world to figure it out.”

Source: art & life

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