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Shop Coming


May 11
Mattress Firm Amphitheatre
Chula Vista
May 21
Grammy Museum
Los Angeles
May 31
Rams Head Live

Superstar hitmaker NE-YO returns with his first album in two years, Non Fiction – one that’s sure to be one of his most talked about. That’s thanks to the deeply compelling personal, relatable subjects NE-YO combines here with some of his most creative, accessible music to date. According to the man himself, Non Fiction is true to its title. “Every song is derived from a true story,” he explains. “One thing that sets me apart as a songwriter is I’m a storyteller: with this album, I wanted to put a magnifying glass on that. I wanted Non Fiction to feel cinematic: each track gives listeners something entertaining, yet if they take their time with it, they’ll discover different dimensions and subplots.”

NE-YO added another twist to the creative process behind Non Fiction: he reached out to his fans via social-media platforms like Twitter and Instagram requesting to hear tales from their lives – many of which made it onto the album. “I didn’t just want to tell my story,” NE-YO says. “Some songs come from the fans, some are directly from my personal experiences. I like letting people try to guess which is which!”

Some are easier to figure out than others. The dramatic album opener “Everybody Loves (The Life)” dramatizes the scandalous details that go down in relationships “where she’s a groupie and you’re a celebrity,” NE-YO says. “The sex is incredible, but she’s just using me to get closer to the fame life. It captures both perspectives – like, is the problem hers, or is it mine?” Another standout track, “Too Hood” details the “100% percent true” exchange NE-YO had with a girl who thought she was “too hood” to get with him. “She was like ‘I ain’t no celeb – you can have any girl,'” NE-YO says. “This bold young lady had no filter: she even told me she prefers my old music to my new stuff! I had to break it down to her, like ‘it’s not about what you can get, but what you want.'”

Songs on Non Fiction tap these universal experiences through NE-YO’s personal lens. They’re the same kind of ultra-relevant narratives blended with powerful hooks he’s became renowned for – both on his own hits like “So Sick,” “Closer” and “Miss Independent” as well as tracks he’s helped craft for top artists like Rihanna, Beyoncé, Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood, Whitney Houston, Pitbull, Ciara, and many more. “Storytime,” for example, combines a beautiful acoustic-guitar ballad with the hilarious situation when a guy asks a girl to have a threesome with him. “I’ve had that conversation more times than I can remember,” NE-YO laughs. Similarly, “Easy With It” is inspired by what happens “when you’re sitting around with your homeboys talking shit you might not say in front of your lady,” he says. “I say the things men can’t say – or don’t.”

Like a film, characters recur throughout Non Fiction’s song cycle. The song “Integrity,” for example, is about an actual woman whose real name is, in fact, Integrity: “She was more than just a booty,” NE-YO sings on the track. “She pointed to the top and said, ‘Take me all the way – maybe even today.'” The silky “Make It Easy,” meanwhile, provides the next chapter in the Integrity saga. “It’s the morning-after conversation where I’m checking if she’s only into me because I’m famous,” he explains. “I’m trying to find out if she’s just another chick, or the kind of woman every artist wants to end up with. Basically I’m asking homegirl if she’s interested in Shaffer Smith [NE-YO’s given name], or NE-YO.” Elsewhere, the piano-driven “Ballerina” tells the heartbreaking tale of a young African-American woman who, as NE-YO sings, is “blessed with Swan Lake grace and Houston curves” – and is being forced to choose between the ballet barre and the strip club. “That’s the most organic song on the album,” NE-YO says. “It’s about how adults do what they have to do.”

As with every NE-YO album, Non Fiction finds him collaborating with some of the most talented names in music today. The list of guest MCs, for example, represents the crème de la crème of contemporary hip-hop. Set-up single “Money Can’t Buy” reunites NE-YO with none other than Jeezy on a mid-tempo banger. “Me and Jeezy definitely have a ‘dynamic duo’ type feel,” NE-YO explains. “Oddly, the song came from him. He called me and was like, ‘I got your next single.’ I was like, ‘You’re a street dude – what do you know about R&B?’ But that shit was crazy, and Jeezy just dominates with his verse.”

Elsewhere, NE-YO collaborates with T.I. for the first time on the sexy “One More.” “I wanted to work with people I’d never worked with before,” NE-YO says. “Basically, it juxtaposes how I would get at a woman versus T.I.’s technique. My touch is a more vague and gentlemanly, but Tip just goes in for the kill.” Likewise, another new friend, Juicy J, brings his Academy Award-winning Southern swagger to two tracks, “Run” and “She Knows” (produced by powerhouse pop guru Dr. Luke of Katy Perry/Miley Cyrus fame). “‘She Knows’ is my version of a strip-club song,” NE-YO says. “I can only go so ratchet, and J gave it the perspective it needed. I just like what he does: no matter what the song is about, he can take the subject matter home.” Elsewhere, “Too Hood” features NE-YO’s first rap on wax, disguised a bit with some sound manipulation. “I didn’t know how people would take me rapping, so I pitched down the vocals,” he says. “I thought, ‘Let’s do something clever with my voice so it’s me and not me at the same time.'”

On Non Fiction’s production side, NE-YO was joined in the studio by mainstays from throughout his career like Shae Taylor as well new associates Key Wayne and Glass John; members of NE-YO’s own Compound Music production team like Corporal and new artist Candice also make significant contributions. Stargate – who worked with NE-YO on his breakout smash “So Sick” as well as on Rihanna’s “Unfaithful” – surround him with uptempo synth-driven rave grooves and filtered Daft Punk-style vocals on the dancefloor dynamite “Coming With You.” “Most of the album is very urban and R&B,” NE-YO notes, “but I didn’t want to abandon the pop/EDM crowd.” Elsewhere, DJ Camper – who’s worked with everyone from Jay Z and Kanye to Chris Brown and John Legend – worked with NE-YO on many Non-Fiction tracks, creating a distinctive blend of classic soul and innovative contemporary production. “We got a chemistry, me and Camper,” NE-YO says. “Camper doesn’t just play the same chords that are in every other R&B song. He got that a lot of what I do is combine yesterday’s greatness with what’s relevant right now: it can’t be totally throwback, nor can it be so on trend that it’s going to get dated quick.”

“It’s all about what the song needs,” NE-YO continues. “What I’m ultimately shooting for on Non Fiction is something timeless, but that feels like a documentary from right now. When you hear these new NE-YO songs, you’re going to know that they’re coming from a real place. People know I’m real with it in my music, but the melodies will live with them forever.”