Friday, May 1st, 2009

Ne-Yo – Part Of The List

Cos anything less than four singles off the album would just be ungentlemanly…


Michaelangelo Matos: He keeps reading my mind. This was the one I secretly obsessed over when I was drowning in Year of the Gentleman all fall and winter–the one I went back to multiple times, usually consecutively, the one I loved without saying much of anything about it, because, you know, it wasn’t going to be a single or anything, just the only song that could logically follow “So You Can Cry” in the sequence, and only a hair less exquisite. “Your beautiful mind” is my least favorite line on the album (sounds like product placement), but “Touching your face/Invading your space” may be my favorite. It still gives me a jolt: so felt, so intimate, that you feel you’re eavesdropping. It gives the entire song more heft; when he goes into the bridge near the end it’s not a lullaby, as it would be in lesser hands, but an elegy. And when he strains that little pearl of a voice on the choruses, giving it everything he’s got, he pulls me all the way in.

Frank Kogan: It’s in his head, all of it, everything about her, everything he misses; sounding out the words with pale precision, this, this, this; index cards in his mind.

Al Shipley: I want to buy into Ne-Yo’s loving little laundry list and appreciate his attention to detail. But as soon as he starts talking about “your left hand, and the way that it’s not quite as big as your right,” I end up spending the rest of the song laughing about Ne-Yo’s hermit crab woman.

Joseph McCombs: This is what sets him apart from The-Dream: there’s a level of vividness here that’s well beyond The-Dream’s generally vague platitudes. And this is the first time I’ve been thrilled by Ne-Yo’s singing – the way he comes out of the bridge into the final chorus and rides the absolute uppermost of his range for several notes until you’re certain he’ll crack. I’m dinging him slightly for “invading your space,” though, and the bad decision of having the ending whoa-ooh-oh its way to a slow fade instead of explode into the stratosphere.

Ian Mathers: I haven’t been the biggest Ne-Yo fan, but on his own, lushly stylish and heartfelt is definitely the right look for him. He almost ruins things entirely by including “invading your space” on the list of things he misses (dude), but it’s made up for by the ambiguity Ne-Yo leaves about why he misses her – she’s on a trip? She left him? She’s dead? There’s no “please come back to me” or “I can’t wait until you get home” sentiments, and the result is to render “Part of the List” both more general and a stronger evocation of distance (of some sort) making the heart grow fonder.

David Raposa: One of the things I like about Ne-Yo and other modern-day R&B renaissance folk (hello dere Radio Killa) is that there’s usually a little idiosyncratic something in their songs, lyrically or musically, that enlivens rote cliches and seperates the thing they do from what’s pumped out by the usual cast of behind-the-scene characters. So you can imagine my disappointment when Ne-Yo ties himself to a faceless mid-tempo anchor like this tune. Never mind that he includes among his favorite things oddball stuff like “your beautiful mind” and “invading your space” — I’d be fine with that if Ne-Yo was actually working these sorts of obtuse angles. But he’s ticking off this catch-all list without the tiniest bit of charm or whimsy or any sort of thing that makes this boring-ass pillow-talk tribute any different than all the other boring-ass pillow-talk tributes getting burn late at night. And as much as I like Ne-Yo as a singer, he’s not nearly forceful or charismatic enough to convincingly sell something this generic.

Alex Macpherson: From the careful foreboding of the one-note guitar intro to the micro-detailed, minutiae-obsessed lyric, “Part Of The List” finds Ne-Yo at his most fastidious; you hear exactly why the song’s object left without ever losing sympathy for him, which is some trick to pull off. Despite the chorus’s deceptively huge hook, Ne-Yo lets the song crescendo gradually, magnifying the impression of a man ambushed by unexpected emotion. A testament to his craftsmanship.

Martin Skidmore: It occasionally shows signs of getting a little boring, especially in one extra-slow section, but there are a few wonderful flourishes, particularly the hurry-up on “your funny little laugh”, and it has ideas that remind me of one of my favourite songs ever, My Funny Valentine, and I end up liking it very much.

Jordan Sargent: In the context of Year of the Gentleman, “Part of the List” was one of a few sappy, Adult Contemporary songs that bogged down the album’s second half. But standing alone it’s a pretty great waiting room ballad, another single in a long line that proves how good Ne-Yo is at opening up a chorus. And really, it’s a shame that it can’t be transported back to 1997 to soundtrack a scene in a Meg Ryan romantic comedy.

Rodney J. Greene: Some of Ne-Yo’s competitors might be gutsier or more inspired or have better pipes, and R. Kelly might hit the trifecta, but none of them can touch Ne-Yo’s knack for sweet and flowing melodic phrasings, nor his ability to convey them as warmly as he does here. The chorus is wide and the guitar does a little waltz-time acoustic choogle. If I have little interesting to say beyond that, it’s because this is somewhat understated and very much a fourth single, but even at Ne-Yo’s blandest, which “Part of the List” is not, he’s adept.

6 Responses to “Ne-Yo – Part Of The List”

  1. Al, you are my score-suppressing bro. Let us away to a shaded porch where we can soak our dentures and shake our canes at lawn kids.

  2. “And really, it’s a shame that it can’t be transported back to 1997 to soundtrack a scene in a Meg Ryan romantic comedy.”

    Yes! When I first listened to YOTG, I could have sworn I’d heard this song already in some trailer for a cookie-cutter rom-com.

  3. Good from Lex:

    you hear exactly why the song’s object left

    This is crucial (even though the song doesn’t tell you that she left, or why).

  4. “This is what sets him apart from The-Dream: there’s a level of vividness here that’s well beyond The-Dream’s generally vague platitudes.”

    i kinda take issue with this. the dream’s lyrics are oftentimes vivid, just in a more juvenile sense. also i think he got much better with this kinda thing on love vs money (i’m thinking specifically of “kelly’s 12 play” – “girl you got my lips hanging off your ear” etc)

  5. Amazing photo, kudos Will.

    Agree with Jordan about The-Dream, will not stand to hear anyone who pens lines like “and I fell like an outworked boxer in the very first round” or like…the entirety of ‘Sweat It Out’ or ‘Walking On The Moon’ accused of not being vivid!

  6. Sorry, Raposa, I have a prior engagement stealing candy from babies.