The fourth album from Crisco-smooth R&B crooner Ne-Yo, Libra Scale, is a concept work involving three garbagemen who are offered super powers; the hitch is that they’re never allowed to fall in love. It’s a morality tale of sorts involving something called a Libra Scale (too complicated to explain here) and musings on the values of money, power and fame. Why the plot for a mainstream R&B album should be so complicated is not clear, nor is there any payoff from trying to make sense of it all.
This would be forgivable if the music stood on its own … but it doesn’t. Previous albums from the former Las Vegan had first-rate production, but this one sounds like something you’ve heard before. In fact, it apes Michael Jackson so strongly, Bubbles the Chimp should be getting royalties. “Cause I Said So” is the most obvious rip-off, a slightly-risqué jam about the faddy topic of fetish bedroom sex, complete with MJ-style “ahhs.” Other lines sound like Justin Timberlake lite (“It’s a beautiful day/It’s going to be a beautiful night”) and some aren’t even that clever, like the beguiling come-on in “Telekinesis”: “Girl have you ever had someone take the time/To sex your body/But also sex your mind?”
Beyond that, the album features a couple of decent singles, “Beautiful Monster” and “One in a Million,” that are reminiscent of his superior previous effort, Year of the Gentleman. Mostly, however, Libra Scale is a confusing, derivative mess that will make you go bananas.