On his fourth album, Ne-Yo relates the tale of three garbage-men-turned-superheroes who can have anything they want, except for love. It's a creative excuse for our heroes to hook up with as many girls as they can handle, but the sci-fi- and anime-inspired Libra Scale is really about Ne-Yo's near-flawless execution. Lines like "Hit it from the back hard, like you got Geico" elicit more than just laughs when they're swathed in classy old-school sounds that forsake the squiggly synths and AutoTune chill of so much contemporary R&B. Many of these songs would sound downright dirty if someone like R. Kelly were singing them. But Ne-Yo is playful in his delivery, with an eyebrow cocked and a smirk ready to fire. He isn't so much a Michael Jackson disciple as an El DeBarge devotee. Just listen to the unusual melodic detours over misleadingly soft harp and MIDI classical guitar. It's the sound of this generation's smoothest craftsman at work and play. — Weiss
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