I had a dream last night. I was in a smoky R&B club watching Prince, R. Kelly and T-Pain put on an unbelievable show. The trio was absolutely tearing it up, the crowd was going off, but then things started to get crazy. Just as T-Pain was hitting his high note Kelly ate him, in one bite! Just straight ate him! Then Prince walked over and ate Kelly, and as he swallowed he slowly morphed into a hybrid of all three. And that creature’s name was The Dream. What’s the lesson here? First, never eat …
DJBooth Album Review
What’s the lesson here? First, never eat a Baja Fresh burrito before going to bed. Second, listening to The Dream’s new album Love Hate (a.k.a. Love Me All Summer Hate Me All Winter) will inevitably conjure up pictures of some sort of Prince/Kells/Pain hybrid. The result is an inconclusive album that’s sometimes too good to be true, sometimes a confusing nightmare. Turns out Love Hate was an incredibly accurate title.
Best known as the writer of Rihanna's hypnotic hit single Umbrella, The Dream tries his luck again with the Caribbean princess on Livin A Lie, a duet about two superstars musicians who can’t reveal their true love for each other (no, it's not autobiographical). The Dream's apparently never met a synth he didn’t like, and Livin A Lie layers multiple riffs to create a lush sonic backdrop for the duo to croon about their burning love. It’s a decent song, but it’s hard not to feel like Ne-Yo already did it better on Hate That I Love You. I’d still rather listen to Lie any day than Shawty Is A Ten, a song that’s blazed to the top of the charts thanks to its addictive chorus and hypnotic beat. I’ll admit I’ve had the hook stuck in my head too, but I'm not happy about it. The Dream stutters his way through his verses, displays a severe case of Tourettes ( “A!"), and Fabulous drops the same ladies-love verse he’s been spitting since Into You. Shawty is the reason I was prepared to hate this album.
Turns out my hatred was premature, on the whole Dream’s put together an album with much more to love than hate. If Falsetto’s stripped down production sounds familiar, it’s because it is; The Dream also wrote Bed. Falsetto is the perfect blend of naughty (“grind it”), and nice (“slow dancing in the club), plus Dream hits a high note that very few could reach. Come on, I can’t be the only one who’s tried. If you’re not impressed by Falsetto, listen to Nikki. Let me be clear when I say this; Nikki is one of the best R&B songs of the year. The Dream finally puts aside the vocal tricks and drops some vocals that bleed with heartbreak and drip with revenge. Whether you’ve been through a bad break up or not, I couldn’t recommend Nikki more highly. Put the song on the car speakers, roll up the windows, and sing you heart out.
Unfortunately The Dream hasn’t quite realized Nikki’s lesson yet; he doesn’t have to keep reaching for the Kelly/T-Pain blueprint when he’s good enough on his own. Fast Car is destined for radio rotation, and at first I couldn’t figure out why I liked this song so much, then I realized it’s because it’s a blend of Prince’s classic jams When Doves Cry and Little Red Corvette. So why would you listen to The Dream try to sound like Prince when you could just listen to Prince? Ummm…good question. Similarly, Ditch That is an oddly fast-paced cut that feels awkwardly out of place in the midst of an album full of slow jams. Ditch That is exactly what happens when you record an album over nine days in Vegas; enough Patron at four in the morning and something like “Let’s do a five minute techno track” starts sounding like a good idea. Nothing in Vegas that late at night is a good idea.
It may not sound like it, but overall I was impressed with Love Hate. In an age where albums have become simply a loose collection of singles and ringtones The Dream has crafted a cohesive album that flows from track to track without hesitation. He undeniably has something unique to offer the music game, I just don't think he's figured out what that “something” is yet. Maybe the next time around he’ll trust himself enough to know he doesn’t have to sound like anyone but himself. A man can dream, right?
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 12/21/07
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Shawty Is A Ten" (2007)
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