Ne-Yo experiments on new album

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Ne-Yo says he didn't plan to rush his new album, "Year of the Gentleman," his third release in as many years, into production.

"I wanted the third album to be something a little different from the first and second as far as the essence and the sound of what I was doing," he said of the Def Jam set, due June 24. "So I was going to chill for a minute and really take some time to figure out what I wanted that to be. Fortunately, it didn't take me that long, which is why the album's coming out now."

Judging by the handful of tracks previewed by Billboard, "Year of the Gentleman" does indeed offer something a little different from traditional R&B: "Closer" is a Stargate-produced club track with pulsing strobe-light synths and a high-energy house beat that calls to mind Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music." "So You Can Cry" sports a mellow, easy-listening vibe, with Ne-Yo making a priceless rhyme of "pity party" and "calamari." Guitars and cymbals figure prominently in "What's the Matter," which Ne-Yo likens to "a Beatles-style rock record."

In addition to Stargate, collaborators on the set include members of Ne-Yo's Atlanta-based Compound Entertainment crew (the HeavyWeights, Shay Taylor, Chuck Harmony), as well as Christopher "Tricky" Stewart and J.R. Rotem, who struck radio gold last year with his protege Sean Kingston.

Beyond a tour with Alicia Keys and Jordin Sparks that begins Saturday in Hampton, Va., Ne-Yo's 2008 campaign also includes at least two forays into movies and TV: a script in development at Fox Atomic that he says "is going to be in the vein of 'Purple Rain'" and an animated series about which he's in talks with Cartoon Network. "For me it's always, 'Let's make the next one,' " Ne-Yo said as he prepares to head back to the video shoot. "'What's the next thing going to be?'"

Hillary Crosley in New York contributed to this report.
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