The-Dream doesn’t care about the radio.
Over the course of his three solo albums (love/Hate, Love vs Money and Love King), The-Dream has shown a knack for delivering engaging songs that tend go against current R&B trends.
At a time when everyone’s doubling down on EDM and trying to squeeze every last dollar from it before its inevitable collapse, Terius Nash seems determined to look forward by looking back. In previous years this retro style’s worked marvellously well, whether it’s crafting hits for others (‘Single Ladies’, ‘Umbrella’, ‘Baby’), or making memorable yet underappreciated songs for himself (‘Yamaha’, ‘Rockin that Shit’).
However, it seems on this release he’s tried too hard not to sound like everyone else and ends up sounding too little like himself.
From the first track you notice somethings missing. The-Dream has always been counted for two things in his lyrics, hilarious double-entendres and ridiculously sincere pledges of love, and yet there seems to be no humour here. ‘High Art’, his opener with Jay-Z, is a lazy contemplation on the art of getting high, and it’s just an excuse to highlight a nice Jay-Hova verse. The second single ‘IV Play’ is again pretty straightforward and not very clever. The strain continues with what could be a spiritual sequel to Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’ called ‘Equestrian, however it’s beat is uninspired and the lyrics never rise above it.
‘P***y’ is one of the rare tracks that noodles it’s way into your brain the way The-Dreams track have always done, and it’s coupled with another tight verse from Pusha T. Kelly Rowland and Beyonce drop in for a couple of middling ballads, which makes you nostalgic for the fun bounce of Mariah Carey’s Love vs Money contribution ‘My Love’.
Just when you’re about to switch off, the exultant yet nihilistic ‘Michael’ drops in, with The-Dream continuing a theme of one-night stands , but this one with a twist that both tips it hat to MJ whilst still able to put a smile on your face. It’s vintage The-Dream.
The second half of the album is not much better than the first, with Nash trying to show his skills at varied genre’s, with mixed success. ‘Loving You/Crazy’ has an uptempo groove that feels out of place and never quite lands, while ‘Holy Love’ and ‘New Orleans’ aim high as girl-done-me-wrong ballads that end up feeling overwrought and underwhelming. It’s not all bad though, as ‘Self-conscious’ and ‘Slow it down’ remind you that Nash can write memorable hooks in his sleep.
If this is your first exposure to The-Dream you’d be better off checking out one of three earlier studio albums, or his last mixtape 1977. All were great examples of how your lyrics can be both funny and sincere at the same time, and how you can create a sound that‘s both original and hot.