11.11.12

Ne-Yo on Internet Pirates and His New Album ‘R.E.D.’

The singer-producer is steamed at fans who bootlegged his new album. He tells Allison Samuels why it gets to him. Plus, his thoughts on Obama, memories of Whitney Houston, and more.

Ne-Yo can stay put, at least for the next four years. The award-winning singer and producer had been threatening, in the days before President Obama’s reelection, to move to Canada if Mitt Romney prevailed.

Ne-Yo, whose birth name is Shaffer Chimere Smith, recorded a number of musical videos for Obama’s 2012 campaign and appeared regularly at Obama events in the 2008 election as well.

“I can’t even imagine him losing,” he told The Daily Beast. “The choice seemed clear to me.’’

The final tally of recent elections wasn’t the only burning topic on the singer-songwriter’s mind. The artist, who began his career penning hit tunes for Mario, Rihanna, and Beyoncé, was also livid about the fact that songs from his new album R.E.D. were bootlegged across the Internet a week prior to its Nov. 6 release.

“You have no idea how mad it still makes me that people do it,” Ne-Yo fumes. “They don’t get that it’s money out my pocket and food out of my kids’ mouth when my work is bootlegged. I really don’t think they get how bootlegging is stealing somebody’s hard work.”

The three-time Grammy winner says he immediately took to his Twitter page and website to make sure his fans—and those guilty of the piracy—knew exactly where he stood on the matter.

“I talked about it on Twitter, and some people came back with comments like, ‘You have money, so stop complaining.’ That’s not even the point. If I went to their job and took stuff that would eventually come out of their pay—they wouldn’t like too much either. I’ve been dealing with this for years, and I still get just as mad about it now as I did with my first album.’’

Rants aside, Ne-Yo’s fifth album offers a happy blend of up-tempo beats and smooth R&B melodies seamlessly fused with provocatively thoughtful lyrics. Duets allow the singer to flow effortlessly from the hard-core bravado of hip-hop in a song with Wiz Khalifa to a sweet and awkwardly enjoyable track entitled “She Is” with country star Tim McGraw. Still, it’s his current top-10 Billboard single “Let Me Love Me (Until You Learn to Love Yourself)” that serves as the most potent reminder of why the Arkansas native remains one of the most sought-after producers and songwriters of the last the decade.

Both Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston sought out his talents for new material shortly before their deaths, a fact Ne-Yo admits still amazes him.

“I realize sometimes when I’m talking about my issues in the music industry that they are really nothing compared to someone like Michael Jackson’s. He went through so much in his entire career, but he still loved the music. We sat and talked for hours about it, and you could see that love in his face as he spoke. I’d written some songs for him to record after his finished that last tour, and he was really excited about it. He loved making music, and nothing that happened to him ever took that away.”

Ne-Yo recalls having the same impression in his meetings with Whitney Houston in the months before she died. Though they never made into the studio to record, Houston was very clear in what she wanted the message of her new songs to be.

“I realize sometimes my issues in the music industry are really nothing compared to someone like Michael Jackson’s.”

“We kept setting up dates to record and then have to change them because of my schedule or Whitney’s,” remembers Ne-Yo. “But one meeting with her, I remember her telling me to make her songs happy. I remember her saying she wanted her fans to know she was happy and satisfied. She wanted the music I wrote to make that clear. I thought about that a lot when she passed away. I’m really sorry we never had the chance to make it happen.”

But writing hit tunes for himself and other superstars gives him little comfort during long stretches away from home and his young daughter and son, both younger than 3 years old, the singer says.

“That’s really the toughest part, because I’ve missed so much going in their lives already,” said Ne-Yo. “Kids change everyday so thank goodness their mother is great at sending pictures all the time so I can see too. I literally sat there and cried when I saw the video of my daughter walking for the first time. And of course her first word was Da-Da. Missed that too. But I’m giving them a good life, I hope, and something to be proud of.”