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Ne-Yo: 'I've never been a troublemaker'

By Denise Quan, CNN
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Ne-Yo on his 'Champagne Life'
  • Ne-Yo expects to have his first child in January
  • "I'm going to teach my child the value of a dollar," he says
  • Celebrity is a "hobby as opposed to a lifestyle" for the singer-songwriter

(CNN) -- In the music video for "Champagne Life," Ne-Yo plays a garbage man who's presented with a dilemma. If he agrees to become a superhero and protect the city, he'll be granted the American Dream of fame, fortune and female companionship. The only catch is that he must never fall in love.

In real life, what would Ne-Yo choose? His multiplatinum career as a three-time Grammy winner?Or would he give it all up for love?

CNN spoke with the 31-year-old singer-songwriter about his own priorities on the Hollywood set of the "Champagne Life" music video. He also shares his thoughts on the baby he's expecting, carrying on the legacy of Michael Jackson and why he feels people need to give Chris Brown a break.

Ne-Yo's fourth album, "Libra Scale," hits stores on September 21.

CNN: If you had to make a choice, which would prevail in your own life -- is it money, is it fame or is it love?

Ne-Yo: Love, of course. Who wouldn't say love, right? You'd be surprised how many people would actually go the other way.

CNN: That's because you have money and you have fame. What's left but love?

Ne-Yo: I'm one of the few who have been fortunate enough to have both. I acquired money, power and fame through my love -- my love for music. I get on my knees and I thank God every day that I'm one of the people blessed to be able to do what I love.

CNN: I have to ask about the baby you're having.

Ne-Yo: I'm going to have my first child in January. I'm terrified, I'm gonna be all the way honest. I've never seen myself as a father, you know what I mean? I knew eventually I would get married and have kids and all of that stuff. By the way, the marriage rumors aren't true. Let's clear that up. I'm not engaged, I'm not to be married. But the baby rumor is true.

CNN: Are you terrified because you didn't have a male role model in your own life growing up?

Ne-Yo: My mom was my mom and my dad. I didn't need the male role model. I figure if I do it the way my mom did it, then my kid is going to be fine.

CNN: Is your kid going to be living the baby "Champagne Life?"

Ne-Yo: No. I'm going to teach my child the value of a dollar. The "Champagne Life" can mean you're just living what the good life is to you. So in that form, yes, my child will definitely be living the "Champagne Life."

CNN: On the song "Champagne Life," you sound so much like Michael Jackson. Is there a little MJ sample on there, too?

Ne-Yo: No, it's all me. No samples. Now with Michael gone, I don't want what he stood for, and what he did, to leave. I know I'm not the only person that feels this way, but I personally have taken it upon myself to keep the melody, and the magic of music and the entertainment that he stood for -- to keep it alive. So that's probably why you hear a little bit of Mike in what I do.

CNN: You saw the Michael Jackson tribute at the BET Awards with Chris Brown (in June). What was your thought about that?

Ne-Yo: I feel like there isn't an artist alive that hasn't been inspired by Michael Jackson, and Chris Brown is definitely no exception. I can imagine just being on the stage, and going through those records and going through those routines. It just hit him that he's gone, and he's not coming back. That's enough to break you down.

CNN: Perhaps it had had something to do with being caught up in the words, "I'm gonna make a change for once in my life" -- starting to sing those lyrics.

Ne-Yo: Going through what Chris has recently gone through, I could imagine that, definitely -- that the song had a little more weight than just being a Michael Jackson song. Definitely. You know, the guy made a mistake, OK? He made a huge mistake, and it's seeming like the world is just being exceptionally unforgiving behind this, and it's like, why? OK, people make mistakes. But forgiveness is divine. What happened to giving a person a second chance?

I will look at this camera and say, "Give the guy a break. Come on, OK? He made a mistake, he apologized, let's move on."

There's been bigger mistakes made by bigger celebrities that were forgiven.

CNN: You've lived a pretty good life and haven't really gotten into trouble. But it doesn't seem like that's where you're naturally inclined to go.

Ne-Yo: Naw, no. Celebrity, for me, is a hobby as opposed to a lifestyle. Just being who I am and how I was raised, I decided to go the other way. I've never been a troublemaker, I never plan on being a troublemaker, and there's no reason to start causing trouble now that I'm in the public eye. Like, what for?

CNN: Well, some people do it for the attention it gets them. There are people who think any publicity is good publicity.

Ne-Yo: I don't look at it that way. I don't do this for publicity. Let the music do what the music is supposed to do. Let it be a healing factor, let it be a helping factor. You had a bad day? Turn on a Ne-Yo CD. That's what I want people to pay attention to me for.