UPDATE: When The-Dream originally dropped his 1977 free album in 2011, he intended it to tide fans over until the release of his fourth studio album Love IV MMXII. Over a year later that album is still in the works, so Terius Nash is re-releasing 1977 commercially.
Along with original hits "Wake Me When It's Over" and "Wish You Were Mine," the new re-vamped version now boasts two new songs, "AK47" and "Tender Tendencies." Production is provided by The-Dream and Tricky Stewart, with guest features from Big Sean, Pharrell and Casha.
The review below is of the original free version, not the new commercial version.
1977 Album Review
And that’s why I couldn’t get enough of The-Dream. Not only did Terius Nash bring back storytelling R&B, he laid down a three song arc on Love vs. Money that has to be mentioned among the best fifteen minutes of any R&B album ever. (Yeah, I said ever.) These weren’t songs, they were a screenplay, and while his last album Love King didn’t quite reach those same heights, Dream pulled out the same multiple-track storyline style to dramatic effect. So it should be no surprise that his new free album 1977 tells a story near and dear to his heart: the break-up of his marriage to Christina Milian after Dream was caught, um, frolicking with his assistant. Or at least that’s the story the public heard – Dream’s story goes a little differently.
1977 opens with a three song stretch that, while not seamlessly transitioning like Sex Intelligent into Sex Intelligent Remix, have to be considered essentially continuous takes on his break-up with Milian. Wake Me When It’s Over takes the kind of dark, ambient synth production that he would usually reserve for baby making music and turns it into an extended rebuttal of the media’s portrayal of the breakup; sure, he cheated, but he was driven to cheat by an uncaring wife too quick to involve the media in their marriage. From there we get the softly angry Used to Be – never has a man dropped so many angry obscenities so sweetly - and the deeply layered and superb Long Gone. As a rule, DJBooth ignored the gossip and focuses on the music, but what to do when the music is about the gossip? I guess we all just have to pick sides - as a father I can’t help but notice Dream’s daughter doesn’t even earn a mention in all this - and acknowledge that the man’s still the king of expansively minimalistic R&B. (That’s a fancy way of saying he can make a synth sound like an orchestra, a simple melody sound like an opera.)
Despite album quality work like Long Gone we can’t forget that 1977 isn’t an album, it’s a free album, which when you’re as established as Dream is code for “marketing tool.” Sure enough, he sets aside one-fifth of the project to putting on his new female protégé Casha (not to be confused with Ke$ha), letting her get her swagger on for the up-tempo Rolex and giving her a track entirely to herself on slow ballad Silly. The verdict? If the goal was to get me familiar with a singer I wasn’t before, mission accomplished. If the goal was to not make me hope Dream gets back to singing soon, not so much. In other not so Dream(y) news, he brings on Big Sean for the decent Ghetto - oddly it’s Dream’s strength, hooks, that drags down Ghetto – and while Wedding Crasher’s concept is interesting, it’s just a little too ridiculous to work. (R. Kelly could have pulled it off though). In other words, this was the “feel free to not upload these songs to your iTunes” paragraph.
Thankfully it’s not long before we’re back in Dream’s landscape of heartbreak, knee deep in the romantic banger Wish You Were Mine. How can I describe Mine? It sounds like Lex Luger and Brian McKnight beat had a baby, and that baby grew up listening to Prince. (Enjoy that mental image.) And while I simply can’t endorse Dream rapping, his work with Pharrell on the more percussively experimental This Sh*t Real is just too head-nodding to dismiss. So where does that leave us? That leaves us with a placeholder project while Dream sorts out some contractual “issues” with Def Jam over his delayed fourth album Diary of a Madman, and frankly I’ll take this placeholder over 90% of R&B’s official projects. It’s about more than just the music, it’s about the story, and Dream’s one of the most gifted storytellers we have.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins