boston.com Arts and Entertainment your connection to The Boston Globe
Ne-Yo
Ne-Yo has crafted a sweet and sexy sophomore CD. (Joe Cledera/Nielsen Entertainment)
CD REVIEW

Ne-Yo's smooth R&B finds its groove on "Because of You"

Ne-Yo may have crooned that he was ‘‘So Sick’’ of love songs on his hit 2006 debut, ‘‘In My Own Words,’’ but don’t believe him.

The 24-year-old R&B wunderkind found time in his busy schedule as a songwriter for hire — Beyoncé’s ‘‘Irreplaceable,’’ Rihanna’s ‘‘Unfaithful’’ — to craft a sexy and sweet sophomore release that’s got more love flowing from it than an ‘‘Oprah’’ audience on ‘‘My Favorite Things’’ day.

As on ‘‘Words’’ and his other productions, the man born Shaffer Smith favors a light touch in terms of production on his new CD ‘‘Because of You.’’ Although several different hands are employed, the album flows as if from one mind, with an emphasis on crafty vocal arrangements, crisp snap-and-clap percussion, and breezy keyboard work.

The formula is openly descended from Michael Jackson tracks like ‘‘Human Nature’’ and ‘‘Rock With You,’’ but Ne-Yo is enough of an individual melody maker to avoid mere mimicry, and his penchant for inventively mixing up grooves adds a personal twist.

‘‘Go on Girl’’ is the album’s undeniable highlight. Just as Beyoncé proved she could handle emotional shadings from vulnerable to steely on ‘‘Irreplaceable,’’ Ne-Yo nails both wounded and angry as he boasts, ‘‘I’m too fly to be depressed.’’

Guests are kept to a minimum, with Def Jam prez Jay-Z coming down from the boardroom to offer a brief, silly rhyme on the jumping ‘‘Crazy’’ and ‘‘Dreamgirl’’ Jennifer Hudson laying down the law on the heartsick, organ-soaked duet ‘‘Leaving Tonight.’’

‘‘Because of You’’ mostly avoids the filler problem that plagues many contemporary R&B albums. And what filler there is — including the near meaningless ballad ‘‘Angel’’ — is arranged so lusciously that it does not offend.

The same can’t be said for the sex-related content. You may cringe at the discussion of bodily fluids on the weirdly metered yet deeply funky ‘‘Sex With My Ex’’ or the mechanics of hand and mouth placement on the heavy-breather ballad ‘‘Say It.’’

A ‘‘Darling Nikki’’-era Prince might approve with a coy smile — especially of the breathy falsetto work — but parents of tweens might not. (Note: The absence of curse words means there is no parental advisory sticker.)

But even if Ne-Yo gets a little too raunchy for the average Luther Vandross fan, his natural pop buoyancy keeps the mood from getting too blue.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES