Year of the Gentleman was named in honor of Ne-Yo's artistic influences. Ne-Yo cited the 1960s American group Rat Pack, particularly members Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. as influences, whose style inspired his clothes and music. Explaining the album's title, he said he was "trying to take it back to where you couldn't walk out of the house unless you looked your best". Commenting on the likes of the Rat Pack and Nat King Cole he commented that "they're suited and everything is right from top to bottom. Not saying it has to be a suit, 'cause clothes don't make the man — it's the attitude and person. The music needs to personify that.". No featurings are present on the album, as previously announced, though "Single" also features as a version with New Kids on the Block on their album, The Block.
Although Ne-Yo has claimed that he wanted to "take a different direction" on the album by not making R&B sounds, however, according to Billboard magazine, "it seems he still has a heavy—yet welcome—case of the (rhythm and) blues on the finished product". The scene in the background for the cover was shot at the million mansion, known as Pink Palace, in the Buckhead district of Atlanta, Georgia.
The first single, "Closer", was released on April 15. The song debuted at number twenty-two on the UK Singles Chart, and later reached number one. On Billboard's Hot 100, the song peaked at number seven, while it has reached number one on the Hot 100 Airplay chart. The second single was supposed to be "Stop This World", but was replaced by "Miss Independent", which was released on August 11. The physical release will be accompanied by a video which premiered on August 21 on Access Granted.
Both of these songs are produced and co-written by Stargate. The album was re-released on December 3, 2008 in Japan, featuring the original Japanese bonus tracks, "What's The Matter" and "She Got Her Own" (featuring Fabolous & Jamie Foxx), as well as two remixes of "Closer" and an exclusive US iTunes track "In The Way" (track list on hmv.co.jp)
The third single is confirmed to be "Mad" and goes for adds on Urban/Rhythmic on October 14, 2008. A video has been made for song "She Got Her Own" and is the official international single. On May 21, 2008—months before the album's release—Ne-Yo performed the ballad "Stop This World" on the ABC soap opera All My Children. Appearing as himself, Ne-Yo sang the song during the lavish wedding ceremony of supercouple Jesse and Angie Hubbard. The fourth single is confirmed to be "Part of the List". The music video is shot in Prague on March 22. Director is TAJ of the Popular Kid. Video produced by Andrew Listermann of Riveting Entertainment.
Year of the Gentleman debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 with 250,000 copies sold making his first album not to debut at number one on the chart. The album debuted at number two on the UK Albums Chart, giving Ne-Yo his highest-charting album in the UK, beating Because of You, which debuted at number six in 2007. In Japan, the album debuted at number one and has thus far sold over 200,000 copies and in the UK 100,000 copies in its first week. The album has since been certified platinum in the UK.
The album received very positive reviews from music critics; it holds an aggregate score of 79/100 from Metacritic. Caryn Ganz of Rolling Stone stated, "The 28-year-old singer-songwriter says his latest collection of heartfelt love songs is a tribute to the Rat Pack's pressed-suit style, but it's actually a superb concept album about what a great boyfriend he can be."Vibe's Brad Wete wrote that Ne-Yo "is a stronger, more confident man than the one many remember licking his wounds" on his previous work.Newsday writer Glenn Gamboa gave it an A- rating and wrote "for the bulk of the album, Ne-Yo has simply honed his hit-making skills, churning out one memorable melody after another, building an album that finally lives up to the potential he only hinted at on his first two releases, both lyrically and vocally." Amy Linden of The Village Voice said that the album "reconfigures 'grown and sexy' by detailing relationships with an often uneasy mix of heartache, reflection, wit, lust, and resignation."
However, Slant Magazine's Eric Henderson found it "musically uneven and ballad-heavy".Robert Christgau gave the album a rating of honorable mention (), indicating a "likable effort consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well enjoy".