Songwriter trades pen, pad for microphone

We are in a time when artists seem to come and go just as often as we change our underwear. It is tough to tell which ones are actually built to last. Shaffer Smith, better known to the music world as Ne-Yo, may be the one exception to the rule.

Even though he hasn’t completely made his mark as a singer, he has garnered success in the industry as a songwriter. Ne-Yo is responsible for penning songs for Mary J. Blige and Chris Brown. He is also the mastermind behind Mario’s 2004 hit, “Let Me Love You.”

With many songwriting credits already under his belt, Ne-Yo has embarked on what seems to be a successful solo career in his debut album, “In My Own Words.”

Although vocal prowess is not his strength, Ne-Yo more than makes up for it through deep lyrics, multifarious originality and powerhouse production.

The album opens up with lead single “Stay.” The up-tempo, percussion-driven track forces you to get out of your seat and head to the dance floor.

Ne-Yo’s infectious harmonies, backed by the bass-heavy track prove why “Stay” was a Billboard Top 40 hit.

Ne-Yo’s second single and his first Billboard number one single is the repetitious, “So Sick.” It has been burning up the charts and radio waves for the past several months, and it remains one of the hottest tracks of the year.

I have to admit, though, I am “so sick” of this song, but when it comes on I just can’t help singing – “And I’m so sick of love songs/So tired of tears/So done with wishing you were still here/ So sick of love songs, so sad and slow/So why can’t I turn off the radio?”

The not-so-in-love ballad makes you want to just lay your head back and say, “Why can’t I turn off that radio?” If you like this song then you will like “Time,” “When You’re Mad” and “Sexy Love.”

The sexy and seductive, “Mirror” is reminiscent of R. Kelly’s early ’90s’ sexcapade hit songs like “Bump N’ Grind” and “Your Body’s Callin.”

The sex-lit song shows another side of Ne-Yo. “Baby I love making love in front of a mirror/So that I can watch you enjoying me/Baby tonight let’s try in front of a mirror/Watching ourselves make love /Girl why don’t we.”

It lets me know that he’s not all about singing sad love songs.

The album’s highlights are definitely the bass-banging “Let Me Get This Right” and the soulful “Get Down Like That.” I can honestly say that there are no album-fillers on this LP.

Ne-Yo’s lack of vocal strength and uniqueness is his only downfall. His lifesaver is artistry and creativity. Although not a flawless debut, Ne-Yo has indeed proven that he is a force in a saturated genre.

This album is worth the cash.

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