Tuesday, March 9, 2010
So R&B is dead, huh? Well, somebody needs to let Terius Nash b.k.a. The-Dream know, cause for the past 4 joints, dude has grown from the chubby cat with the catchy vocal tics to the most bankable male R&B/Pop artist in the game. You may be able to say Ursher's marriage (and subsequent fall off) had something to do with it. Justin Timberlake has been quiet since his last album, seemingly bitten by the acting bug (Good luck). Chris Brown has been making hits, only problem is, the biggest ones weren't made in a recording studio, they were in his Lambo (He got Rihanna on the hook). Brown quickly went from being the next Michael Jackson to being the new Ike Turner. T-Pain was poised to make a move to the forefront (If you wanna even call what he does "R&B") but with so many cats copying his style, it diluted his movement somewhat and after Jay-Z's "Death Of Auto-Tune", his career's been a couple of dirt filled shovel full's away from being D.O.A.. All that left just enough room for The-Dream to come in with his patented brand of "Luv Songs" to fill the vacuum and take the number one slot.
The-Dream - Love King
So you say he can't really sing and his lyrics are crass (often times they're just flagrantly sleazy). Point taken. But don't front like you haven't gotten at least one of his infectious hooks stuck in your head at one point or another. The-Dream has a mastery of melodies and rudimentary as his songwriting may sometimes be, there's a sense of mischievous charm and a vulnerability that allows him to get away with much of it. Through all the playboy bravado, it's clear through his music that The-Dream is a helpless romantic and the way he tackles the basic topics of love, sex and money has resulted in critical acclaim, even if the album sales haven't necessarily reflected his popularity. Plus, simply put, the guy knows how to make hit records. Since his 2007 debut, Love/Hate, The-Dream has been nearly omnipresent on the Hip-Hop/R&B charts. Actually, he was there even before his debut (The-Dream wrote Rihanna's "Umbrella", Chris Brown's "You" and both "Bed" & "Suffocate" for J. Holiday). Following last year's re-up, Love Vs. Money, Nash has kept busy with numerous guest appearances & features (Fabolous's "Throw It In The Bag, Snoop Dogg's "Gangsta Luv", Rick Ross's "All I Really Want") as well as a slew of side projects (Mariah Carey's Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel, Electrik Red's How To Be A Lady Vol. 1, Christina Milan's upcoming album, Elope & Ciara's as yet untitled 4th album). He might not be an A-List star yet but his hit making acumen is already certified. Whether it's a genuine collaboration or a close facsimile (i.e. Jeremih's "Birthday Sex", Trey Songz entire last album, etc.) you can't turn on your radio or favorite video channel without bumping into a song from The-Dream or something clearly inspired by his music. The question is, while writing all those hit records for everybody else, does he have anything left in the tank for the Return Of The Jedi chapter of his "Love" trilogy. Well, The-Dream answers with the first look and title track off of his third album, Love King, and after riding with it for a hot minute, I'd say the answer is a definite yes.
The track (Produced by L.O.S. Da Mystro) is full of the same electronic clicks, snaps and soaring synths that have become familiar territory on a Dream song. The same musical elements found here can be found on alot of other records from The-Dream, but the fact that they're used in such a way that they still sound just as fresh as they did when you first heard them speaks volumes. On it, The-Dream runs down a list of all his conquests over the past couple years (at one point, the song sounds like a commercial jingle. I hope son got paid for a couple of those name drops) but he's still campaigning for those last few holdouts, urging, "If you don't know me like that/Girl, you should know me like that". And just for good measure, The-Dream throws in every catchy run, rift and adlib he's got in his cache, to the point the song is bursting with The-Dream-isms. You just wait, once radio/video picks this up, it's gonna be pretty hard to avoid.
I've seen the talk around the net and the main point I see being brought up is that "Love King" sounds like "Shawty Is The Shit". Or it sounds like "Rockin' That Thing" or "I Luv Your Girl" or any one of his other hits. Is it formulaic? Yeah, but I think that's exactly the point. In fact, the song itself is an ode to that very formula, a celebration of the sound that The-Dream and his production team (Tricky Stewart & L.O.S. Da Mystro) have rode to multi-platinum success, at the same time influencing the R&B genre in a way we haven't seen since R. Kelly dropped his game changer, 12 Play back in '93 (an artist and an album that are obviously major influences for The-Dream). Quietly, Nash and his "Dream" team have been making some of the best Pop records in recent memory and still managed to get snubbed by the Grammy's. But you know how that goes. Fuck a Grammy.
As far as first singles go, "Love King" is everything we've come to expect from The-Dream. This is both a good thing and a not so good thing. See, that's the thing about formulas. When they work, no one cares how many times they're used or how eventually they all seem to blend together (ie. The Neptunes Discography). It's only when they turn stale and repetitive do they become a problem. As prolific as The-Dream has been in his brief career (and he doesn't show any signs of slowing up), the quality of the music has never faltered. But how long can he keep going to the same well before it dries up? I'm giving "Love King" a pass because it's the "single" but at the same time, I question his decision to go with such a safe record. With this set to be his 3rd and final release a s a solo artist (I'm calling bullshit right now), I'm waiting to hear if he can top his previous efforts because if The-Dream doesn't continue to try and find new wrinkles in his format, I'm not sure if there will be any royal coronations in his future.