On Sunday night (March 29), two of R&B’s most well-dressed hitmakers — Ne-Yo and Johntá Austin — served up back-to-back classics during their Instagram Live battle. The two critically acclaimed songwriters went head-to-head, with each one trying outdo the other with a classic track they’d written.
The battle started on a civil note with Austin tweeting out the event’s ground rules and his personal admiration for Ne-Yo.
“1. Show up sober, 2. 25 songs a piece, 3. Songs must already be released, 4. Any genre counts, 5. 1m 30secs max play for each song,” Austin wrote. “I don’t know if he remembers this but I told [Ne-Yo] at the Def Jam Grammy party in ‘07 that LA Reid asked me which new writers I love. I said ‘a lot are great, but that guy Neyo keeps me up & night & focused with what he does.’ Neyo’s pen is truly #sosick.”
Austin, who has penned hits for Mary J. Blige, Aaliyah, Mariah Carey and more, got the battle started on the ‘Gram, kicking things off with Ideal’s 1999 song, “Get Gone.” Following suit, Ne-Yo — whose songwriting credits range from Beyonce to Rihanna — fired back with Marques Houston’s “That Girl.”
Austin then served up another classic, Aaliyah’s 2002 single “I Miss You.” Taking things to the next level, Ne-Yo played Rihanna’s A Girl Like Me cut, “Unfaithful.” An unmistakable hit, Austin responded to the track with, “Ok, we bringing out the big guns!”
A series of 2000’s goodness ensued, with both Austin and Ne-Yo dancing through Keri Hilson’s “Knock You Down” and Mariah Carey’s “It’s Like That.”
At one point, Austin also played Bryson Tiller’s 2014 hit “Don’t,” which samples his co-written Mariah Carey hit, “Shake It Off.”
“You know you a legend with young hitmakers sample your sh*t to make their sh*t,” Austin prefaced the track.
Ne-Yo countered with Ginuwine’s “Stingy,” which was answered from Austin with Chris Brown’s “Yo (Excuse Me Miss).” As an accomplished songwriter and recording artist, Ne-Yo brought a few of his own hits out to play, including “So Sick,” “Mirror” and “Miss Independent.” He also served up his credited hits, such as Rihanna’s “Take A Bow,” Beyonce’s “Flaws and All” and Mario’s “Let Me Love You.”
Austin provided a deep dive into his written discography with Trey Songz’s “I Need A Girl,” Tyrese’s “Sweet Lady,” Mariah Carey’s “Don’t Forget About Us,” Aaliyah’s “I Don’t Wanna” and more.
Ending on a mega-hit note, Austin played Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together,” while Ne-Yo brought out Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable.”
Both artists agreed the battle was a close tie.
“You worked for it!” Ne-Yo joked.
Keeping the good feels going, Austin and Ne-Yo again thanked each other for participating and acknowledged each other’s immense talent.
“I know Ne-Yo is a legend, all over the world,” Austin said. “This was amazing.”
“Thank you Johntá, real talk,” he continued. “You wrote countless records that I stayed up listening to thinking, ‘I gotta have a song like that.’”
Ne-Yo also mentioned that he’s got some new music coming up this year, adding that his latest single “Pinky Ring” is “just an appetizer.”
Ne-Yo and Austin’s Instagram battle follows The-Dream and Sean Garrett’s “Battle of the Songwriters,” as more and more artists look for virtual ways to engage fans during this time of social distancing.
For those who missed out on the action or want to relive Ne-Yo and Austin’s selects, TIDAL has thankfully compiled the battle into a playlist. Stream the playlist and see some reactions to the battle on Twitter below.