October 06, 2008 12:00 PM

Year of the Gentleman

CRITIC’S CHOICE

R&B

While R. Kelly may have spawned a generation of R&B bad boys with more of a hip-hop player mentality, Ne-Yo has kept it classy. The singer drives that home, gently, on Year of the Gentleman, his third disc in as many years—and his best yet. In fact, with his smooth, spit-polished soul—as well as his prolific talent for writing and producing songs for others—Ne-Yo, 28, is emerging more as a young Babyface. Michael Jackson circa Off the Wall also remains a major influence, from the lush disco rush of the hit first single “Closer” to the falsetto-laced funk of “Nobody” and the mid-tempo melancholy of “So You Can Cry,” which may reduce you to tears.

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Mad,” a let’s-kiss-and-make-up ballad

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