“The story you about to hear is complete fiction. It is, however, made up of a group of stories, true stories, about real people. Thus making it… a true story.” Eh?
This is how Non-Fiction starts, stumbling over its own definition as if Ne-Yo couldn’t even be bothered to pick up a dictionary. Needless to say, fiction or non, it’s the start of the most genuinely WTF albums we’ve ever heard.
Take the first proper track of the deluxe version, Everybody Loves You/The Def Of You. It’s about a girl called “Tammy Vanity” (yawn), who uses and abuses poor little Ne-Yo for his celebrity contacts and hookups, but he keeps her around because mm-hmm, she sex him good. Without a jot of irony, he starts rhyming “BET Awards” with “Billboards”, and name-dropping Trey Songz and ‘Jigga’. It’s so unbelievably cringe that it’s impossible to keep a straight face, a mood that’s sobered rather quickly when you realise it’s wholly representative of the egotistical bubble that modern R&B stars like Ne-Yo, R Kelly, and even The Weeknd are trapped in.
And, like the output of these peers, it’s also monumentally misogynistic. We’re supposed to side with Ne-Yo when he talks about this girl taking advantage of his highfalutin celebrity lifestyle, and essentially accept her as a mega-slag for getting what she wants. Fair enough, but the only reason he doesn’t mind is because “you can’t deny that girl is beautiful… only on the outside.” Christ. You might as well ask us to pick between Aids and cancer, because you’re both as bad as each other.
It carries on through One More (Ne-Yo insisting he buy a girl a drink), and the insulting Who’s Taking You Home (essentially: you are too pretty to be single, therefore to have any worth as a human someone must take you home tonight). The mind boggles as to how singing something in a delicate falsetto is somehow a free pass for anachronistic nonsense.
As for the Ne-Yo that commanded MJ-style melodies and genuinely excited us with songs like Because Of You? Near invisible. Run‘s decent hook gets swallowed, and everything from Integrity (completely bereft thereof) to the dated special guests – T.I., Juicy J, an aural abortion with Pitbull – falls completely flat.
Non-Fiction essentially sums up everything wrong with the old guard of R&B stars these days, something people like Ne-Yo and even Pharrell have no business making when their female counterparts are running rings around them. It’s a self-aggrandising tale of excess and chauvinism that does nothing for the genre in any respect; hell, in a glorious and serendipitous moment of zero self-awareness, there’s even a track called She Knows. Seeing as though we all managed to get rid of the last prick to peddle that phrase (and also used fiction as an excuse), there’s absolutely no reason we should accept a single note of this regressive twaddle in 2015.