It’s 2007, and R&B crooner Ne-Yo is seemingly an addict. Maybe not in the literal way the term might suggest, but in a more figurative sense; in which his appetite for love, sex and salacious desires require an intervention. The man born Shaffer Chimere Smith paints these schmaltzy, sometimes raunchy romance-infused vignettes with his sophomore effort, Because of You.
Ten years ago today (May 1), Because of You made its debut and was named after its catchy first single. The track reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart two and a half weeks after the album’s release. In 2006, his debut album, In My Own Words rose to No.1 on the Billboard 200 and its ubiquitous first single “So Sick” garnered the coveted No.1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
While his sophomore record didn’t achieve the same chart-topping accolades his first project did, it was a continuation to the heartfelt dialogue he introduced to the world. “Much like its predecessor, Know Me is seductively laced with a gentle, insistent longing. You can hear it on songs like ‘Do You,’ which, Ne-Yo explains, picks up where ‘So Sick’ left off, or the playful ‘Crazy,’ with its breathless vocals,” Amy Linden wrote for VIBE in 2007.
[Editor’s Note: the album was named Know Me before he decided on Because of You.]
Eventually, Because of You went on to win a Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B album. Additionally, the Las Vegas native also won two other Grams the following year for Best R&B Song and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance with “Miss Independent.” Awards and charts aside, the album will always be coveted as an R&B staple. With his lyrical prowess and insightful ear for production, he took us on a trip through all the trials and stages that come with deep love or shallow sexual relations. It’s the aftermath after the feels. It’s complex and at times simple. “I got a problem and I don’t know what to do about it/ Even if I did, I don’t know if I would quit but I doubt it,” he admits on “Because of You.”
To say the least, he excels at conveying a not-so-subtle message into subtle interesting wordplay. “The art of songwriting is not saying ‘f**k me’ but finding a more clever way of saying something instead of just going right in,” he told VIBE 10 years ago.
Amid the bliss, there is painful introspection: “Maybe this decision was a mistake/You probably don’t care what I have to say/ But it’s been heavy on my mind for months now,” he ponders on “Do You.” On the album, he creates a catalogue of hits designed for those in love, helplessly trapped inside the seductions of sex, seeking vindication or contemplating their mistakes of the past.
In efforts to commemorate Because of You’s 10th anniversary, we took a track-by-track trip down memory line to decipher Ne-Yo’s love-fixated mind.
1. “Because of You”
Over sweet melodies, smooth percussive bangs and with soothing piano keys, Ne-Yo creates an ode to his dangerous desires with a special girl that has that sexual “It” factor. In it, he professes there is nothing more deliciously intoxicating than enjoying a good romp session. He admits he may have some issues, but the gravitational pull the object of his addiction has on him is far greater than any resolution. After all, “she’s the sweetest touch.”
2. “Crazy” feat. Jay Z
With a braggadocious co-sign from Jay Z, Ne-Yo is still obsessed with an out of this world intriguing love interest. Once again, nothing else matters. He admits to writing her name on the wall 3,000 times, and also admits every song he’s writing is about this special young lady. Infatuation here is an understatement. It’s smooth and reminiscent of the late Michael Jackson.
3. “Can We Chill”
Ne-Yo hit the club for this one. With an upbeat feel and an infectious pulsating rhythm, he’s presumably pleading the object of his desire to go to a more discreet destination than the dance floor. Amid the salacious offer, he attempts to add a small shot of chivalry: “Don’t wanna rush, let’s take it slow/Enjoy the night babe/Then you decide if you want to/Get to know me on a physical side.”
4. “Do You”
After the tempting obsessions comes the inevitable depressive introspection. It seems like in between the mischief, Ne-Yo caused a certain someone some pain. Now, he’s left wondering if he has some type of presence in her heart or mind. Like many of us, he regrets the misbehavior that unfortunately happens at times in our romantic relationships.
Beneath jazzy beats, the Sin City native teases that he isn’t as fazed by sex because of how easy he can get it. He is worried about how enthralled you might be after you get a taste. “Welcome to Fame,” he confidently places in the song’s opener, almost to foreshadow that if you were to sleep with him, your mind might get caught up. But if you slip, “It’s a gift and a curse/Don’t mess around/find my number in your girlfriend’s purse,” he warns.
6. “Leaving Tonight” feat. Jennifer Hudson
There’s an intruder meddling in Shaffer Chimere Smith and Jennifer Hudson’s relationship. He wants to assure her nothing is wrong, but with crucial hard evidence his claims are hard to believe. The love gone wrong ballad seems more in conjunction with “Do You” than the rest of Because of You’s offerings to this point. But one thing is for sure: the R&B crooner is “Not Leaving Tonight,” whether an infidelity happened or not.
7. “Ain’t Thinking About You”
Through a series of speedy production keys and a percussive mixture of drums as its backdrop, Mr. Smith confesses he’s had enough. He’s seemingly at that stage in a relationship where one has done everything they possibly can to salvage the partnership, and still it’s never enough. It’s relatable and frustrating, but like in all matters of the heart, it’s necessary…to grow apart that is.
8. “Sex With My Ex”
It doesn’t matter what happened in the past anymore. One thing is for sure, if the bedroom play becomes boardroom consensus between the two parties involved, it’s on. Because, “Sex with my ex-girlfriend” is tempting: “I… really like the way you go/Begging me to not kiss right there/And you, suddenly just lose control/
Begging me to smack it and pull your hair.” Even when it might be wrong, it still feels right.
Through a heavenly sunny mix of soothing beats and sweet lyrics, Ne-Yo is in love with perhaps someone whose love is unrequited. Its wordplay makes you question whether or not the singer songwriter is in love with someone who has passed on to the other life: “I sit around so anxious for you to call my phone/She went up to heaven said she’ll be back later on.” It’s part of the confusion that makes the track that more intriguing and beautiful.
10. “Make It Work”
There’s always going to be conflict in a relationship, and this schmaltzy little love note expresses just that. It has a relaxing sound to it, matched with a hint of all the reality that comes with the four-letter word.
11. “Say It”
It’s back to the bedroom, and now the singer-songwriter is seeking some validation, or perhaps wants his sex partner to up the ante. Through a slow, dissolving beat and monotone-like tone, he’s letting his girl know he’s aiming to please. Her wish is his command. “Anything that you want, baby, tell me you want it/No more hoping and wishing/Name your position.”
12. “Go On Girl”
Someone has done Ne-Yo wrong, and he’s had enough. A melancholic beat dominates the track, as his heartbreaking soliloquy resonates with us. The man who has professed his infatuation with a certain young woman, is now maybe lamenting he gave that same girl the time of day.