After countless hits, a couple Grammys and millions sold, Terius “The-Dream” Nash is empirically one of the most successful songwriters of the last decade. From Rihanna’s “Umbrella” to Mariah’s “Obsessed” to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It),” his songs have become modern pop classics, and as common in the family car as they are in the club. They’ve also proven him to be a woman’s best friend when she needs a #1 smash, through his uncanny ability to write from the female perspective. It’s a gift The-Dream shares with the legendary songwriters he admires, such as Smokey Robinson and Prince. But when it comes to his solo music, The-Dream remains every man’s secret weapon—capable of soothing, sweet-talking, and seducing over the course of a single verse, making him a sort of musical Cyrano de Bergerac for those in need of assistance.
On his third solo album, Love King, The-Dream ups the ante, focusing his considerable talents on making hits for the long haul, jams from this day forward.
A mere year after his last album, Love vs. Money, took a sometimes dark slant on broken hearts, Love King, is positively triumphant. Some of that is due to The-Dream’s new family, but much of it is rooted much deeper. “I’ve always believed in love,” The-Dream says. “That has a lot to do with my relationship with my mom. I lost her when I was 14. Losing her put me in a place where nothing is forever, literally. So if you have something you love, try to hold on to it. Don’t play with it, because it could be gone.” This perspective lends an emotional depth to songs like “F.I.L.A. (Fall In Love Again),” with fellow Atlantan T.I., and “Make-Up Bag,” on which The-Dream sounds more like a dedicated husband than a libidinous lothario. “I’d rather it have a chance to last,” he explains. “Everything with me is about getting something ready to last.”
The-Dream hasn’t left his wild side totally behind, though, or his unique way of expressing it. On the Purple Rain-ish uptempo “Yamaha,” he creates a metaphor for desire that few would even think of, let alone put to record. On “Sex Intelligent,” The-Dream declares his sovereignty between the sheets over grinding bass and pulsating keys, singing the line You can’t match a love like mine/ It’s like trying to rob me with a bb gun/ but my love gets it poppin’ like the Taliban, leaving no doubt he is a one-of-a-kind lyricist. And “Turnt Up” is just classic bedroom chest-thumping.
However, if you cross The-Dream, you’ll still have to deal with him. With a dose of humor on “Florida University,” and a deluge of thunderous promise on “Take Care of Me,” The-Dream reminds his listeners that love is an alliance of reciprocation. The latter, specifically, is his most musically aggressive song to date, with rolling piano verses and overdriven guitars on the hook. It was recorded late in the Love King sessions with studio engineer Pat Thrall and proves to be one of the album’s most surprising, and epic, moments.
With his third album, The-Dream once again reminds us that behind every hit is a strong heart beating and quick mind at work. Love King is as close as we’ve gotten to both—passionate, funny, insightful, and most of all, ambitious. “Don’t settle,” The-Dream says. “Whatever you’re doing. Want it all. Want until it ends, until your mind’s blown.
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