Monday, July 19, 2010

The-Dream - Love King (2010)

Three and a half weeks and no updates. Sorry about that! Every day that passed since my earth shattering dissection of Hole's Pretty On The Inside was another day that I failed to see any reviews of the new full length solo effort from Terius Nash aka The-Dream turn up at certain major review sources on the internet, a record that has been next in the queue since the Hole review was published. But alas, I waited too long and the reviews are rolling in now. I started writing this a week ago so I might as well just finish it. This blog could be undergoing a slow, inconsequential death, who knows.

Listening to Love King recently for the first time since the initial leak period, I realized that I've lost interest in this recording, anyway. Expectation is a massive bitch, did you know that? It is a vast, multitude containing enigma that can take months and even years to properly assess and come to terms with. Back in late 2008 when I first encountered persons in my small circle of elite music fans who were excited about just how exceptionally good The-Dream's solo debut Love/Hate managed to be, I made special note of it. Only a few months later, the followup Love vs. Money became the talk of the town and suddenly I had two albums that I could look forward to getting acquainted with. After a single meaningless first listen of each, I intentionally began diving into the debut, which despite Nash's rising levels of commercial and critical appeal remains a slept on recording. I was in a car with some fine white girls when I decided that the time was right to give it a legit attentive spin. And let me tell you, for the knockout 1-2-3 punch of "Shawty Is Da Shit," "I Luv Your Girl," and "Fast Car," my unfamiliarity with these songs allowed them to retain a startling level of transcendence that music rarely achieves. Who knows what the white girls thought at the time. Probably some combination of annoyance, uncertainty, and horniness as I sat consumed by sheer ecstasy at the abundance of hooks that were being filtered through some incredibly blissful production and then launched out of the speakers like some vile load being spat up onto the monstrous creamy juggs of my psyche and the many fibers contained within. After being drenched by that opening run of jams, I was brought back to reality. Smooth sailing from there. Over time, the rest of the album blossomed into something that was as start to finish enjoyable as any album with practically zero shitty songs on it ("Mama" is up in the air at this point.) During that summer, I experienced many long train rides, sweaty workout sessions, and long periods spent sitting around dicking about on the internet that were soundtracked by this wonderful Long Player. And since that initial revelatory period, Love/Hate has continued to be the gift that keeps on giving! I also got to Love vs. Money later that summer and that one ended up being stellar, as well. Less seamlessly flowing than the debut and more approachable in 1-2 song chunks, but enjoyable for its more overblown quality and bigger synths. The Electrik Red record was pretty dope, too. Cool!!!

And so I had every right to expect an album that was as all around fantastic as The-Dream's first two. Instead of being transfixed at being repeatedly drawn into this record, however, my time with Love King has felt considerably more forced. Besides an increased level of familiarity, not much has changed since the first listen. The album is structured in such a way that the opening run of songs is enjoyable but bordering on retread territory. Nash is still cocky as hell and confident in his ability to please the ladies but for the first time ever, his fixation on this aspect of his persona is starting to feel played out. Starting with the rightly jizzed upon internet sensation "Yamaha," he begins to hint that he is fully capable of expanding his artistry in terms of musical and emotional content. From a songwriting perspective, "Yamaha" is a triumph in the tradition of "I Luv Your Girl" and "Take You Home 2 My Mama" in how it reveals The-Dream to be awfully good at hurling hooks at the listener in a way that justifies his tendencies towards being a showoff. Very much like how "Fast Car" functioned as a reimagination of "Little Red Corvette," "Yamaha" pumps shit up to "I Would Die 4 U" levels. When that groove kicks in, it makes everything that came before it sound like a painful slog. By the time the second half's vocal refrain kicks in with Nash going right ahead and flat out impersonating the Purple One with a vocal performance, lyrics, and melody that all sound like they could have been transmitted from the creative mind of Prince himself. Or maybe even one of his classic unfuckwitable '80s records (could have fooled me.) It's an exhilarating piece of music that needs to be heard to be believed and completely justifies the special recognition that it has been receiving from the white internet using record nerd contingent of The-Dream's audience.

While clearly the album's centerpiece, the stretch of tunes that follows "Yamaha" has no shortage of standout moments and is a pleasant surprise overall. The segue into "Nikki, Pt. 2" and the way that song's segue into "Abyss" (which sports another out of nowhere classic artist aping refrain... this time, it's MJ) acts as an extension of the near cinematic multipart drama of "Love vs. Money, Pts. 1 & 2" on his sophomore release and "Nikki" -> "She Needs My Love" on his debut, but even more lush and drenched in the sweat of human emotion... good stuff!!! The man carries this through the sensual falsetto led groove of "Turnt Out" and the like-"Fancy"-but-more-syrupy "February Love." These songs are some moody conceptual shit and make me wish that The-Dream would just go ahead and release the R&B Laughing Stock or something. That would be some fresh shit, in my opinion!!!

Ultimately, this album is this year's Watch Me Fall: followup release to some of the best music in recent years but feeling like a messy transitional work that only occasionally lives up to the artist's standards and has me struggling to say anything insightful about it. Or caring about trying to. Bummer. Apparently he's not retiring from making solo records after all, so hopefully he'll finish his next album and not die like Jay Reatard did that one time (also a bummer. Or perhaps more of a harsh realm.)

Rating: Eh.

Download Link: "Yamaha"... this is quite the track!!!

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