"So You Can Cry"
by Ne-Yo
(Def Jam)

Checking the liner notes of Year of the Gentleman, the album this track isn't yet a single from, two songwriters are credited: S. Smith, aka Ne-Yo (born Shaffer Smith), and R. Perry. I took my time ascertaining that the latter's first name is Reggie, because I wanted so badly to believe Ne-Yo had cowritten the song with Richard Perry, the man whose soft-pop productions pretty much defined '70s hit radio: Pointer Sisters, Ringo Starr, and especially Carly Simon, whose records this one sounds exactly like. Either that or Joni Mitchell's "Free Man in Paris" with more Oprah in it—this is a straight-up advice song, albeit of the tough-love variety: "Well , I'm sorry/I won't attend your pity party/I'd rather go have calamari/And maybe a drink/And yes, I think/You should come with me." The woman he's singing to (unless it's a man, which seems less likely but not entirely improbable) can't get over the man who left, a situation he paints with quick, deft opening strokes: "So it's over/He's with someone else, and you know her." The chorus arcs upward so exquisitely that its get-over-yourself message seems contradictory until you realize how deeply frustration and concern tend to run in tandem. Or more simply: my favorite song from my favorite album of the year.

"Oh Girl"
by Raphael Saadiq

Ne-Yo is a certain kind of throwback: the sensitive lover who writes great songs for women ("Unfaithful" for Rihanna, "Irresistible" for Beyoncé) as well as for himself, à la Babyface. Raphael Saadiq is another kind: For 20 years, most famously with Tony! Toni! Toné!, he's updated older R&B styles for modern consumption. So of course he's made his retro-soul move; The Way I See It is a dozen ace '60s/'70s replicas (plus a remix featuring Jay-Z, ah well). Motown is the major source of inspiration, but this exquisite ballad goes west a bit, to Chicago. The strings and bells and loud-as-fuck snares, not to mention Saadiq's aching falsetto, conjure a different great record called Oh Girl, the one by the Chi-Lites, without sounding especially like it. recommended