Sometimes it’s best to just let an artist speak for himself. When describing his new album, Love vs. Money, The-Dream said ”This album is just gonna be the first album on crack, basically.” (Insert your own Bobby Brown joke here). While Dream’s description of his latest synth-driven opus isn’t exactly eloquent, it is accurate. Love vs. Money takes everything that made his debut Love Hate work and amplifies it, creating a carefully crafted sonic universe of sex, money, melody...and more sex. Along with his production partner Christopher “Tricky” Stewart, Dream has already been a force …
DJBooth Album Review
The-Dream is a certified radio killer, so it’s no surprise that he’s laced Love vs. Money with tracks guaranteed to beat up the airwaves harder than (name censored) did (name censored). Sorry, the lawyers got nervous about that last line, you’ll just have to use your imagination. Now where was I? That’s right, Rockin That Thang, the 2009 version of Dream’s breakthrough hit Shawty Is A 10. There may not be any better example of Dream’s musical growth than the difference between Rockin and Shawty: where Shawty relied on vocal gimmicks Rockin is a complete musical thought, and where Shawty felt pressured to include a mundane Fabolous verse, on Rockin, Dream’s confident to the damn thing solo. If Love vs. Money gives birth to another hit, and I have to believe it will, it’s got to be My Love, a track that has Dream doing his best Jermaine Dupri production impression so his guest artist/diva Mariah Carey feels at home. Unfortunately, the Kanye-assisted Walkin On The Moon doesn’t do so well, recycling the same Prince-inspired formula Dream used on Love Hate’s Fast Car, but ultimately it doesn’t really matter. Tracks like My Love and Rockin may not be anything extraordinary, but they’re more than enough to rack up a couple more homicide charges for the infamous radio killer.
Besides our shared love of women in stilettos, The Dream and I have one other thing in common: we both admire the musical stylings of one Mr. Robert Sylvester Kelly. Love v. Money has R. Kelly’s fingerprints all over it, from Dream’s almost absurdly hyper-sexualized lyrics to his addictively catchy harmonies. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Kells opening a song with the line “Call Leticia, your beautician, cause your hair’s gonna need fixin,” but that’s exactly what Dream does on Sweat It Out. Sweat is an echoing ballad dedicated to the fine art of messing up a woman’s hair in bed that Dream can’t make quite as captivating as a true Kells jam - he just doesn’t have the voice - but coming that close to a master is still impressive. The Kelly-ization of Dream’s music runs throughout the album, from subtle lyrical touches like Put It Down’s “I’m all up on you like a monster truck” to an entire track about baby makin while one of Kelly’s classic jams plays in the background (Kelly’s 12 Play). Personally, I’m all for Dream’s use of Kelly as a musical mentor, as long as he stays out of the closet.
All these radio hits and R. Kelly-esque jams are nice, but they’re not what makes Love vs. Money a great album. No, the reason Love vs. Money deserves praise is an absolutely mesmerizing fifteen-minute stretch in the middle of the album. Stretching out over three almost continuous tracks, this is where Dream proves that when it comes to electronically drenched R&B, there’s him, and then there’s everyone else. The fireworks start with the title track Love vs. Money, a hypnotizing track that marries sorrowful synths with gun burst percussion while Dream turns the pain of a cheating girlfriend inward, admitting he substituted loving her for merely buying her things. The theme of material wealth as the catalyst for heartbreak continues on the slower but darker Love vs. Money 2 before finishing with Fancy, a piano-based ballad that expands into a six-minute orchestral experimental opus. This is the storytelling side of Dream that first won me over (see Love Hate’s excellent Nikki), and although it’s only March, until I hear better, Love vs. Money is the best R&B album of the year.
DJBooth Rating - 4.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 03/10/09
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