March 12, 2009

Test Spin: The-Dream

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To those not familiar with contemporary R&B, the solo artist known as The-Dream is a largely unknown entity. Despite reaching gold status and scoring three top-ten R&B singles with his debut Love/Hate, the man born Terius Nash has gained famed chiefly from penning and producing monster hits for the likes of Beyonce (“Single Ladies”), Mariah Carey (“Touch My Body”) and Rihanna (“Umbrella”). While crossover fame has escaped him, his sophomore follow-up will likely launch The-Dream to solo stardom, as Love vs. Money is as professional and concise as mainstream R&B records come.
The record’s opening sequence gleams with polish, as lead single “Rockin’ That Sh**” rides an addictive synthesized based line and a minimalist call-and-response hook. Follow-up single “My Love,” a duet with über-diva Mariah Carey, finds the duo cooing over a crisp, clean melody. The proposed third single, “Walkin’ on the Moon,” featuring an inspired Kanye West, findes the singer channeling his inner Michael Jackson falsetto with a futuristic bombast circa 2085.
While this record is pervaded by the standard R&B subject matter of love, sex and money, The-Dream avoids cliché by co-writing and producing the entire record with swaggering innovation and absorptive creativity. His clever wordplay abounds on the album; rhythmic mid-tempo “Put It Down” draws a humorously comparison (“Now if they ask you can I sing like Usher, say no / But I can make you sing like Mariah, ooh”), while the sensual groove “Sweat It Out” features a hilarious opening line (“Call up Tisha, your beautician, cuz your hair is gon’ need fixing”) that’s convincing in spite of its absurdity. The eight-minute opus “Love vs. Money” is a confessional stretch that finds The-Dream menacingly deliberating the difference between the two titular entities.
As was the case with The-Dream debut, the songs flow seamlessly here. The album’s closing moments continue down this sensuous path, paying direct reverence to R. Kelly (“Kelly’s 12 Play”) until taking one surprising final turn with the effective Lil’ Jon crunk-closer “Let Me See the Booty.” The-Dream may not sing like Usher, but on Love vs. Money, he resonates better than anyone.