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For his sixth studio album, Non-Fiction (Motown, Jan. 27), Ne-Yo took a different approach. Instead of looking inward for the 19-track set, the 32-year-old singer-songwriter, who does double duty as Motown senior vp A&R, crowd-sourced love stories from fans through social media for inspiration. Though the concept album isn’t entirely his own truth, he says his main goal was to create a narrative you can get lost in: “The one element of good storytelling is being able to take your listener on a ride.”

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Why did you decide to incorporate your fans into the songwriting process?

They have very common stories — it’s something us guys go through on a regular basis, and it’s definitely something that women have been a part of as well at some point in their lives. I want people to listen to these stories and find themselves within them. The hardest thing about putting this together was looking at yourself in the mirror and picking yourself apart: not being afraid or ashamed to admit when you’ve done something wrong. That’s something guys have an issue with a lot of the time. But I’ve kind of accepted that my role in R&B is to say things for guys they either don’t want to say or can’t say.

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