/

LIVE

Ne-Yo

by Shawn Despres

The last quarter of 2008 started off well for American R&B crooner Ne-Yo — and it’s only got better.

In early September he was awarded $700,000 in a lawsuit against Rowe Entertainment. That was after he sued the concert promoter after being fired as an opener for troubled soul singer R. Kelly’s late-2007 U.S. tour, just two gigs into a scheduled 25 live dates. An undisputed rising star, Ne-Yo claimed that favorable show reviews for him as opposed to the headlining Kelly played a factor in his dismissal.

Ne-Yo’s wallet got even fatter later in the month with the release of his third full-length, “Year of the Gentleman.” The disc debuted high on sales charts around the globe, including Japan, where it captured the No. 2 spot on the Oricon chart and has sold more than 300,000 copies to date. Riding the strength of hit singles “Closer” and “Miss Independent,” “Year of the Gentleman” received six Grammy nods, including Album of the Year, when the awards ceremony announced its nominations in early December.

A well-respected songwriter who produces his own material, Ne-Yo has also helped pen Top 10 singles for the likes of Beyonce (“Irreplaceable”) and Rihanna (“Unfaithful”), and there is talk of him working with Usher on the singer’s next recording. Taking full advantage of his popularity, he has tried his hand at acting, with roles in the flicks “Save the Last Dance 2″ (2006) and “Stomp the Yard” (2007); and, in November, he made a guest appearance on the long-running U.S. sketch-comedy TV series “MADtv.”

Ne-Yo will open 2009 with a Japanese tour. (He performed here earlier this year as part of the large-scale Springroove urban-music festival in Chiba.) His trajectory will doubtless continue to point upwards over the next 12 months.

Ne-Yo plays Jan. 8 and 9 at Nippon Budokan, Tokyo (7 p.m.; ¥8,000-¥8,500; [03] 3462-6969); Jan. 10 at Osaka-Jo Hall (6 p.m.; ¥8,500; [06] 7732-8888); and Jan. 12 at Zepp Nagoya (sold out). For more information, visit www.creativeman.co.jp