If the air around you feels a bit sexier than normal, don't be alarmed: it's because Ne-Yo is in the house. Ne-Yo kindly took some time to talk to GoGoMix about his album Non-Fiction, why he didn't quite connect with Fifty Shades of Grey, and a few of his favorite things!
GGM: You sure picked a great, blizzard-y day to release your album!
Ne-Yo: Yeah, the coldest album release ever!
GGM: Non-Fiction opens with such a powerful monologue announcing what makes this album special. Can you summarize what sets this album apart from past efforts for you?
Ne-Yo: I think what sets this album apart for me is that this is the first collaborative effort between myself and my fans. At this point, I felt everybody should know that 50% of this album is based on 100% true stories given to me by my fans. I wanted them to be a part of the creative process this time around. This being our first collaborative effort opened up a whole other well of inspirations for me, because I’ve never written like this before. I’ve never reached out and asked questions to my fans and allowed them to be the inspiration. That’s what makes this album different.
GGM: It’s such an interesting approach. What were the challenges of adapting fan’s stories to music?
Ne-Yo: I will say that there were a lot of people who I talked to so much, that they got really, really comfortable and expressed really personal things, things that don’t translate to song well, you know what I mean? But other than that, it was a lot of good problems, like having too much quality material. I couldn’t get to everybody. I might have to do this sort of thing again so I can get to the stories I didn’t get to use for the album.
GGM: The album has a ton of great collaborators musically too, like T.I., Schoolboy Q, Pitbull, and they help create a lot of interesting contrasts. How was fitting collaborators in to your vision?
Ne-Yo: The collaborators add to the narrative of the overall story being told. Schoolboy Q on the song “Run,” it’s a public service announcement for folks to run from a predatory woman in your life! He nailed that thought home, the same way Juicy J nails the thought home in “She Knows” or Young Jeezy nails the thought home in “Money Can’t Buy.” They’re additional pressure to the point being pressed.
GGM: You’ve mentioned you’re a storyteller and that’s a thing we don’t have so much in music anymore. Who are some storytellers that inspired you growing up?
Ne-Yo: I’m a huge comic book head, man. I love what’s been done with all the Marvel stories I grew up checkin’ out, from Wolverine to Spiderman and on down the list. I’m a huge fan of Stan Lee, those guys who wrote those classics that could be revised and turned into what they are today. We can go back as far back as Mark Twain in high school, in terms of stories that first truly grabbed me! Before that was me listening to the teacher read Huck Finn, and me being so concerned about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and all that.
I’ve been saturated with the concept of storytelling from a young age. People were telling me with this album, maybe I shouldn’t rely so much on the concept of stories. Attention spans are shorter, people aren’t gonna sit for that long, whatever the case may be. I’ve always felt like, if you give somebody something worth listening to, they will take the time to do so. I hope this album is worth listening to for people. I hope the stories are worth listening to.
GGM: Could you tell me some of your favorite albums of all time?
Ne-Yo: Favorite albums of all time, lets see… Well, you have the Purple Rain album from Prince. We have Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, then Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. Hotter Than July and Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder. Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear, and to bring it a little more current, I love, love, love Kendrick Lamar’s last album. Loved Adele’s 21. Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die was incredible. Drake’s Nothing Was the Same was incredible. I feel like he really carved out his own niche, his own sound. Taylor Swift’s current album is actually really, really dope. I’m not ashamed to say so. I love the way she jumped genres. That’s not an easy task. She started out doing country music and if you listen to her new album, that is not a country album. I applaud her for being gutsy enough to take that chance.
GGM: How about some favorite movies?
Ne-Yo: I love Fight Club, with Brad Pitt and Ed Norton. I love it because of the twist at the end, the twist of the whole story. I really didn’t know what to expect going in. You think “Fight Club,” you think “guys fighting,” but it’s so much more. If you haven’t seen it, I definitely recommend it. And then there’s Prince’s Purple Rain again, because of course the Purple Rain album was the soundtrack to the movie. There’s The Wiz, the black version of The Wizard of Oz. That was incredible. I’m a huge Quentin Tarantino fan, so I love all the Kill Bills, Reservoir Dogs, all that stuff.
GGM: TV Shows?
Ne-Yo: As of right now, I’m on Game of Thrones. I’m super, duper, duper late as they’re on, like, Season 75 and I’m on Season 2 (laughs). I was actually really cool with coming into New York and it being a blizzard, because that meant I could catch up on my Game of Thrones. I’m also super into Scandal, another one I jumped on kinda late. Sons of Anarchy I just got on. If you wanna take it back a little bit, Martin was one of my favorite sitcoms. The Chappelle Show was ridiculously funny. I kinda wish it would come back.
GGM: I feel you there. So, you mentioned you were a comic book head, but do you have any favorite novels or longer reads?
Ne-Yo: I tried to read Fifty Shades of Grey…
GGM: Oh yeah? How’d that go?
Ne-Yo: Ehhh… I couldn’t really… (laughs) I mean I dig what it was talkin’ about, but I think it was hyped up too much for me. It was mainly women who were reading the book, and I picked it up in my constant struggle to learn and understand women, and I get why women liked it, but I couldn’t personally get interested. It’s not anything incredibly new to me, but I like the story and I’m anxious to see what the movie is like.
I wasn’t really on Harry Potter or Hunger Games novels. I didn’t know anything about any of those until those movies came out. I’m not a major reader. Right now I’m reading Gone Girl. I actually saw that movie and it made me want to read the book.
GGM: You obviously travel a lot. Is there a certain restaurant that you have to hit up anytime you’re in a certain city?
Ne-Yo: Uh… Wow, no! (laughs) I’m sorry, I wish I had some cool story about a little spot on a corner of a lonely street, but no, I really don’t. I’m not good with names of restaurants. In New York, I like those spots on the street that are really inconspicuous and you’d walk right past them unless somebody told you what it was. You heard about it from a friend and the food was amazing, but the next night you wake up and say “Dammit, what was that spot we went to last night?”
GGM: So I’ve listened to the album and I have my early favorite song, but I was wondering if you currently had one you really like?
Ne-Yo: Not really. Every song to me is kinda special in it’s own right, but “Story Time” sticks out for me, just because it’s a lighthearted way to talk about a subject that could get pretty serious if discussed the wrong way. I won’t even give it away. I’ll let everyone see for themselves when they pick up the album. Check for “Story Time” and ask yourself, “What would you do?”
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