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Ne-Yo paints the town R.E.D

GOOD VIBES: Ne-Yo and Jasmine

MY FAVOURITE melody king Ne-Yo recently invited me to a very intimate playback session at the classy Hospital private members club in London for the release of his fifth album R.E.D.

We were led down some red carpet-lined stairs to the plush basement, which had been transformed into a sexy bedroom-styled area. The vibe was buzzing, dark and opulent, and showed that the marketing department at the record label had put in a great amount of effort for the event.

There was a video bank of spotlights, massive billboards and LED screens everywhere. Attendees in the room included a host of media folks, as well as Ethiopia Habtemariam, the Senior Vice President of Motown Records, who introduced the man of the moment.

Ne-Yo began by telling us that at the age of nine he had put aside his hopes of being a fireman and wrestler to dream about being a musician. Now, he really had realised his dream.

‘‘At 32-years-old, I have accomplished all my goals musically,” Ne-Yo told us. “As a father of a two-year-old son and none-month-old daughter, this album is a celebration.’’

He played his current single Let Me Love You. Written by the star, it was in fact a hit song a few years ago when it was sung by fellow R’n’B singer Mario.

I remember Ne-Yo admitting to me that he wished he had kept the song for himself. And whilst I love Ne-Yo, I will always prefer the version he wrote for Mario because the new version has the current Euro-dance beat that drives me slightly nuts.

Garnering a mixture of fans over the years, Ne-Yo has tried to create the best of all worlds with this album, as he acknowledged: “I have die-hard R’n’B and pop fans, so I have decided to make sure both sides get equal attention.”

A notable track on the album, The Cracks in Mister Perfect talks about the fact that a music star can’t have an off-day, even if he’s going through some upsetting times, while Lazy Love takes it back to an R’n’B vibe. My favourite track on the album is It Should Be You, which discusses being with a person but wanting to be with someone else.

Ne-Yo also made me giggle when he made the interesting admission of loving country music. “In country music you don’t have to be the coolest guy on the planet and can sing about a hound dog – there’s no pressure,” he laughed. Great evening.

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HACKNEY HEADS TO HARLEM

I RECENTLY found myself on the judging panel for the exciting event Hackney Vs Harlem. A sing-off between Hackney Empire’s Live@theEmpire contestants and singers from New York, the event saw me sitting on a panel with MOBO founder Kanya King, Hackney’s home-grown chart-topping band Rudimental, and Henry Village (CEO of Black Butter Records).

The night was hosted by comedian Kat B and EastEnders actress Tameka Empson; a great double act who could bounce off one and another entertainingly for hours.

National pride was at stake, but so was a chance to win a year’s professional mentoring, a soft release by Black Butter Records, and £2,000.

Four finalists from both cities went head-to-head with a live band onstage. I assumed this would be an X-Factor style task with some acts being much stronger in vocal ability than others. But this was not the case – they were all amazing vocalists. The winner was UK singer Jermain Jackman, a modern, gospel-inspired act. He threw himself into his song and made the audience gasp as he took us on his emotional ride with joy and excitement. Good luck in your Harlem appearance Jermain! Team UK’s got your back!

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COLD AS ICE

I ended the week at London’s Hammersmith Apollo for the Ice-T movie premiere From Nothing to Something. Ice-T brought along his wife Coco to the event excite the fellas, while Public Enemy’s Chuck D brought the power by asking the UK audience why, with the deaths of Mark Duggan and Smiley Culture, we weren’t fighting the power.

Wu Tang legends Raekwon and Ghostface Killa had all the men in the crowd excited like little boys as they bounced around to the group’s hit song C.R.E.A.M, and legend Melle Mel performed the best set of the night and then stripped to his vest to show off his still perky biceps! All that and more that next week.

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