The-Dream’s ‘Love Vs. Money’ Proved He Was More Than a Pop Hitmaker. But Not All of It Is Easy to Listen to in 2019

The singer-songwriter-producer's second solo album is 10 years outdated

That’s the half that sticks to your mind and pulls up your antenna and makes you discover. I name it the dumb half. I've to place the dumb half in each tune I write. I've my causes. -- The-Dream, discussing the “ella ella aye” chorus from Rihanna’s “Umbrella” in an October 2007 Rolling Stone interview.

In early 2009, singer/songwriter/producer Terius “The-Dream” Nash was on the industrial peak of his profession. Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” which he co-wrote, had hit No. 1 two years prior. Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”, which he additionally co-wrote and co-produced, had hit No. 1 a couple of months earlier. Both songs netted him Grammy nominations, with “Single Ladies” incomes him tune of the 12 months and greatest R&B tune trophies on the 2010 ceremony. In the subsequent couple of years, Justin Bieber, Mariah Carey, Drake, Kanye West and Lionel Richie would come calling.

“Umbrella” and “Single Ladies” are certainly not dumb songs, and Nash is certainly not the only real get together answerable for their respective successes. But having churned out each hits comparatively shortly -- he reportedly wrote the primary verse of “Umbrella” in a single minute and the majority of “Single Ladies” in below 20 -- he craved one thing to sink his tooth into. Following his chart dominance, Nash and his producing companion, Christopher “Tricky” Stewart, spent late 2008 and early 2009 specializing in two ardour tasks: their latest signees, the lady group Electrik Red, in addition to The-Dream’s sophomore album, Love Vs. Money, which turned 10 years outdated this week. The latter, whereas a very completely different physique of labor from the enduring singles he labored on, is as spectacular a bit of his catalog as the rest he's completed -- although later headlines in The-Dream's private life make components of it an uncomfortable hear in 2019.

The-Dream’s 2007 debut, Love Hate, accommodates some really nice R&B music, dabbling in Prince omages (“Fast Car”), psychedelic sluggish jams (“Falsetto”) and punchy pop (the Rihanna-assisted “Livin’ A Lie”) whereas Top 20 singles “Shawty Is Da Shit” and “I Luv Your Girl” match snug into the sounds of mid-2000s radio rap. But it additionally felt like a little bit of a seize bag at instances, so he aimed for one thing extra singular on his follow-up. “I seen that individuals can steal sure stuff,” he stated in a recent interview, wanting again on on what he described as a transfer away from a “fundamental Dream” sound for Love Vs. Money. “But there’s sure shit they'll’t steal from me.” Love Vs. Money feels just like the second he realized that his distinctive voice, whereas clear and succesful, was by no means going to hold huge singles by itself, like Usher’s or Chris Brown’s. Instead, he adopted the trail paved by ‘70s auteurs like Isaac Hayes or Randy Newman: enable others to make hits out of your catchiest songs whereas devoting most of your consideration to bold solo albums.

In sound, scope and narrative arc, Love Vs. Money is a extra fastidiously thought of entire than Love Hate, which he wrote and recorded in eight days flat. The-Dream, Tricky and their cohort Carlos “Los Da Mystro” McKinney merge Atlanta hip-hop -- primarily snap music and proto-trap -- with digital music lush synth pads (examine the pillowy chords that open “Right Side of My Brain”) and prospers of baroque music offered by acoustic devices (examine the Spanish-style guitar licks and timpani hits that accent the final 90 seconds of that very same tune). “Trick and I'm going far and wide,” he stated in a 2012 interview concerning the artistic course of. “Putting a bell right here, a snap right here, a whistle right here, retaining it in the identical key or taking the important thing up, turning the top of 1 tune into one other tune. We’re mainly in there simply musically jerking off. Like, Ahhh! Yeahhh! Come onnn! Do ittt!”

While it’s not explicitly an idea album, Love Vs. Money tracks the rise, fall and denouement of a relationship outlined by a wrestle between the file’s two titular parts. Plenty of its songs nonetheless have Nash’s signature “dumb components” (learn: sticky, wordless refrains) -- one in all them, from the tune “Fancy,” would even form the basis of a future Fabolous and Drake monitor. But on Love Vs. Money, The-Dream doesn't simply fine-tune his masterful data of verse-chorus songcraft, he makes use of it as a leaping off level for a full-length that's stuffed with artistic dangers and turns. 

The first half of Love Vs. Money performs out like an EP of easy, steamy R&B, one the place the carnal and the romantic are so intertwined tune about ruining a lady’s freshly-styled hairdo vigorous intercourse (“Sweat It Out”) builds to a harmonized chorus -- “I do know you just like the love we make” -- that’s unquestionably beautiful. Soon, nevertheless, a plot emerges from an opportunity encounter within the membership (“Rockin’ That Shit”) that evolves right into a extra critical relationship (“Take U Home 2 My Mama”).

That’s the place every little thing falls aside, no less than for the couple. The subsequent 4 songs, from the brutal, two-part title monitor to the open-veined “Right Side of My Brain,” type a vivid breakup suite. Its centerpiece, the practically seven-minute-long, virtually bass-free “Fancy,” is so indulgent that when an accordion is available in after the lyric, “In Paris seducing me,” -- the place “Paris” is pretentiously pronounced pair-REE -- you possibly can virtually glimpse a stereotypical French busker: mustache, beret, horizontal-striped shirt. The-Dream is aware of not each producer might pull a transfer like that off. “Records like ‘Fancy,’ they'll’t steal,” he stated in that very same interview about escaping the “fundamental Dream” sound. “Certain artists have taken the feelings of it to create themselves, however they'll’t try this file.”

The-Dream finally sings about discovering a rebound on the album’s ultimate two tracks, however it doesn’t precisely really feel like a contented ending a decade later. That final tune on Love Vs. Money known as “Kelly’s 12 Play.” It’s about having intercourse to the 1993 album 12 Play by R. Kelly, one in all The-Dream’s fundamental influences. Both are sex-and-passion-obsessed R&B songwriters, and sadly, that’s not the place the similarities finish: Both males have additionally been accused of abuse. While the allegations in opposition to The-Dream are nowhere close to as far-ranging and decade-spanning as those in opposition to Kelly are (which Kelly has repeatedly denied), The-Dream has been concerned with two alleged incidents of home violence involving ex-girlfriend Lydia Nam. In 2013, he his was arrested following a home dispute, however Nam didn't press prices. The following 12 months, The-Dream surrendered himself to the NYPD after Nam accused him of beating and strangling her throughout a separate incident in 2013 whereas she was pregnant with their little one, and he or she later launched graphic pictures of what she stated have been the bruises. The-Dream denied all the fees (which included strangulation and assault felony prices in addition to a toddler endangerment misdemeanor) and was finally cleared of them. The prosecutor for his case stated, “We have decided that we can't show this case past an affordable doubt.”

All that occurred earlier than the top of 2015, some two-plus years earlier than the #MeToo motion as we all know it took form, and The-Dream has to date emerged unscathed. His albums nonetheless get positive reviewsSolange recruited him for 2 tracks on her just-released When I Get Home LP. There are not any campaigns to get radio stations to cease enjoying songs written by him. Other actors and musicians who've been referred to as out for abuse or harassment since 2017 have confronted way more pronounced penalties, even when they have been by no means charged with any crimes.

At the very least, these brushes with the regulation are the type that make you listen. And he did himself no favors with the few responses he supplied to his home abuse prices. When the case was nonetheless pending, TMZ asked him if the allegations have been false, and he flashed a smile and responded, "Of course they're, I'm such a beautiful particular person." Even worse are lyrics to final 12 months’s “Super Soaker,” which makes an attempt to spin the entire state of affairs right into a punchline: “The solely time I hit a lady is from the again/ And the one time I slap a bitch is on the ass.”

Love Vs. Money doesn’t have many moments like that. For an album concerning the methods cash can affect relationships, it has much less veiled misogyny than the typical tune about gold digger clichés, although some lyrics actually learn as extra disturbing in hindsight: “Quit appearing like I’m the one one guilty, honey/ Didn’t hear you scream ‘no’ while you was trickin’ off my cash,” he sings on “Love Vs. Money, Pt. 2.” Love Vs. Money isn’t in any other case an album the place hints about potential poisonous habits appear to lurk round each nook, one thing Rolling Stone’s Jonathan Bernstein skilled when he looked back at Ryan Adams’ catalog following a New York Times exposé concerning the musician. But that doesn’t imply you possibly can or essentially ought to look again on the album with out contemplating the accusations he confronted.

The two extremes are apparent right here: You can by no means hearken to his work once more out of assist for his alleged sufferer, or you possibly can proceed on as a steadfast fan as a result of he was by no means discovered responsible of something. But there’s a center floor that exists, too. At the very least, you possibly can maintain The-Dream’s music in excessive esteem and maintain onto the data of his abuse scandal -- its gravity and context inside his profession -- with out having to commerce one for the opposite; you possibly can acknowledge that the man who had a hand in a few of the largest girls’s empowerment anthems of the 21st century -- Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” and “Run the World (Girls)” -- has additionally been accused and cleared of harrowing habits. That could supply the fullest, albeit sophisticated, portrait of The-Dream’s profession and legacy. To really consider an artist’s profession, you possibly can’t simply take a look at the straightforward, infectious, “dumb components": The-Dream’s far more than his quite a few “ellas” and “ayes,” for higher or for worse.


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