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Ne-Yo found inspiration at wedding of an ex

September 21, 2008|ANN POWERS

THERE ARE plenty of excellent songs on Ne-Yo's new release, "Year of the Gentleman." But one stands out for me -- and apparently for the 25-year-old smooth lover too.

When I met with Ne-Yo in the studio last month to sample from his new selections, he was predictably enthusiastic about everything. But the song "Fade Into the Background," a mini-epic about watching your lost love walk down the aisle with some lucky cleanup fella, got him seriously jazzed.

" 'Fade Into the Background' is the story of a guy who's dating a young lady; they end up breaking up," Ne-Yo says. "He realizes after they break up how much he loves her. But by the time he gets up in there to tell her, it's too late. He's invited to her wedding. We pick up right there, where he's walking into the wedding."

Ne-Yo has good taste in his own music: This song moves along like a scene from a classy gangster movie, with the singer in the role of the young don who let his true love go when the family demanded it. "Such a lovely reception," he croons through clenched teeth. "I sit here sippin' rose." Soon enough he's guzzling from the bottle and tearing the party apart.

The song has some surprising inspirations.

"I love country music, because there's always a beginning, a middle and an end. People don't understand the power of telling a story anymore," Ne-Yo says.

"The inspiration for the song is -- life. It happened to me.

"Somebody I was dating, we broke up and a long time afterwards, I got the invitation to the wedding, and I go, and just seeing her brought back some feelings. That was enough for me to write that song.

"You put a little bit of fiction in there -- I didn't get drunk and stand up in the middle of her wedding and scream, 'Aaagh!' But I did go to the wedding and I did feel something. There was a moment when I caught her eye, we just smiled, and I looked away."

So, two questions, Ne-Yo: Who is the now off-limits lady behind "Fade Into the Background"? And can you shop this song around Nashville?

I'd love to hear Alan Jackson sing that line about rose.

-- Ann Powers

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