I know there's no way I can say this without sounding like a crazy person, so I'm just going to go ahead and get it out there: I don't now like, nor have I ever liked, pretty much any song Ne-Yo has ever written or performed (for a second, I thought that wasn't true, since his Wikipedia page says he wrote for Teedra Moses, whose 2004 album Complex Simplicity is one of the only R&B records I truly love, but then I checked the album's page, and not only is he not credited, but it specifically states that Moses AT LEAST wrote all of the lyrics. whew!). At the end of the day, I think it was that Beyoncé track "Irreplaceable" that killed it for me, as Ne-Yo wrote all of that song's lyrics, and they are, in my opinion, truly, completely god-awful (who rhymes "minute" with "minute"? seriously. I can think of a million shitty rhymes that I would prefer to that one, including "Ain't no other way you can spin it/I can have another you in a minute" or "I can have another you in a minute/Show me your donkey tail and I'll pin it", just to name a few). What I'm trying to say is that I have an irrational aversion to this man's music, so consider yourself warned (spoiler alert: this record, his fifth, hasn't changed my mind).
So. First of all, R.E.D. stands for Realizing Every Dream, a fact which I discovered by reading an interview with Ne-Yo on The Boombox. I also discovered that, while he has already accomplished both of his primary dreams (negotiating world peace and curing cancer - just kidding! I meant winning a Grammy and starring in a film), he still hasn't won as many Grammies as Stevie Wonder, or starred in as many films as Denzel Washington, so he still feels like he has "more growing to do, more learning to do, just more dreams to realize". This is a topic we learn more about on first track "Cracks In Mr. Perfect", where he addresses his flaws as a man with stunningly deep lyrics like "Twenty k on champagne in the club/Then twenty k more just because/That's forty k in three hours/But everybody watching my section" and "I ain't got a condom here oh no/And too lazy to run to the store (and it's cold outside)/But you just met her three hours ago/Says the angel on my shoulder/But the devil he can talk real loud (yeah)/And of my decision I'm not proud". And I have to say, I applaud his aw-shucks attitude regarding condom-less boning: since even porn stars are going to be forced into the ol' latex prison soon, it's about time SOMEONE grew the courage to step up and finally make raw sex cool again, STIs and unplanned pregnancies be damned!
The next couple of tracks on the album can be summed up with the words "sappy, sappy, boring", until we get to "Jealous", which I couldn't help but think was just a less-good version of Lucinda Williams' "I Envy The Wind" (Ne-Yo's lyrics include "From the wind that blows by/Smellin' the scent of your perfume/To the sun that touches your skin/On a Sunday afternoon/I'm jealous", extraordinarly similar to Williams' own envy of the way the wind and the sun affect her lover). The next track that I noticed was "Stress Reliever", which struck me as a toothless, crappy emulation of The-Dream with especially weird lyrics ("She tell me things like/Things like I'm her favorite flavor/And there's not a lollipop/That could ever compare/Ooh stress reliever/Service to her king/She say Daddy, feed me/And I know just what she means" - am I the only one imagining a penis sucker right now???), and then I found myself yet again offended by "Carry On (Her Letter To Him)", where Ne-Yo's insistence on using the song title to convey that it was written from the perspective of a victimized woman instead of man seems unnecessary (lyrics include "Ooh-hoo, so you found another bed you'd rather sleep in tonight/Yeah/I said Ooh-hoo/So I gotta lose for what you think is a win tonight/Said Ooh-hoo/Some night is the night that you won't answer your phone/Yeah/Said ooh-hoo/Soundtrack of the sin be the sound of my ringtone/Cause I call you all night long/Well go on, and carry on").
Obviously, as mentioned, something about Ne-Yo bugs the shit out of me, so much so that I could never review his songs objectively. That being said, I am woman enough to admit that the MUSIC on this album is better than your average R&B baby-making slow-jam type-stuff, with at-times excellent harmonies, and fun EDM touches on "Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself)" and "Shut Me Down" (even if I thought "Shut Me Down (Like A Rapist's Fetus)" would have been a funnier song title). I will even go so far as to say that Ne-Yo's stated goal of getting back to basics on this record after his less-successful fourth release Libra Scale was probably accomplished, and that if you like Ne-Yo, you will most likely like this record. As for me, however, I would like to take this opportunity to quote the best line from "Cracks In Mr. Perfect", where he sings "It's like I become more of an idiot/With every extra million I get". Finally, something we agree on!
Oh, and I almost forgot the bonus tracks. There are four of them: "Should Be You" is a slow jam that features Diddy, Fabolous and lyrics like "As I lay here with some girl I don't know/In the back of my mind/One million times/I tell myself/It should be you", "My Other Gun" celebrates his ride-or-die lady friend with lots handclapping but not enough double entendres (I would have preferred "My Other Other Gun"), "Alone With You (Maddie's Song)" is some slow sap for his daughter which changes it up with snapping instead of handclapping, and "Let's Go" by Calvin Harris is that song you hear on the radio all the time. Is it worth the extra dollar? I dunno, I would probably just buy the new Calvin Harris instead.