Love King completes Terius Nash’s (a.k.a., The-Dream) heart/libido-on-sleeve triptych as a close-to-perfect cohesive whole, thematically and musically. Despite having penned and produced a few blockbuster hits and released two full LPs, this release feels like a nascent beginning for The-Dream where his innate songwriting becomes undeniable and his reputation soars from international hit-maker to esteemed solo artist. Impeccably consistent, Love King is a relentless offering of R&B ballads and radio-bangers. This is what Prince did. This is what Drake would castrate himself to be able to do. This is what Timbaland did to Justin Timberlake’s career, making him irresistible to both teenage girls and Ryan Schreiber. This is Def Jam redeeming itself for Blueprint 3. On Love King, The-Dream has internalized his grandeur for good reason. After co-writing and producing Justin Bieber’s biggest hit and following it up with Rob Harvilla praise, his transcendence warrants great acclaim and greater respect.
First and foremost, Love King is sequenced meticulously and demands the listener treat it as such. Though “Love King” and “Yamaha” are the best pop singles of the year, listening to these songs independently loses the musical and narrative arc of the album. So please, don’t impatiently peruse The-Dream’s MySpace; give Love King the complete listen that Nash intended. At 12-songs (17, if you have the deluxe edition), Love King is the final chapter of The-Dream’s trio of love albums. Once again, he balances his inebriated puppy love with carnal desires, and though not the first in R&B singer to explore these themes, Love King proves he does so more interestingly than any other.
In every sense, it’s fitting that the title-track begins the album: an airtight-pop song with R&B influences suitable for all Billboard radio, and video-ready for MTV and BET. It’s totally accessible but also layered and complex. As Nash lists a rolodex of cities that harbor women he’s fucked, he furthers his dual-personality: the egregious misogynist (“there ain’t nothing like a smart bitch”) and the desperate romantic demanding vindication (“girl, you don’t me like that”). It’s a persona we get to know intimately well, and one if he hadn’t supplemented with sonic opulence and deft precision, we might not appreciate so much.
Nash’s duality becomes more pronounced with each track. Been caught cheating? Infidelity-anthem “Make-Up Bag” advises to “drop five stacks” on “Louie, Prada, Hermes”. The next song Nash is stealing your girl, and sure he wants sex, but he really just wants her to “help me fall in love again”. Harkening on his R&B roots, “Sex Intelligent” is an R. Kelly-esque parody until you realize there’s not a morsel of irony when he says “I give her whatever she needs/ you can’t match her love like mine.” I probably couldn’t. He’s constantly walking a tightrope between overt-misogyny and emphatic obsession with the women in his life. The conflict is irresistible and age-old: love and sex. He can lionize one while rejecting the other, then switch the equation on the next verse and somehow remain authentic because of it.
The grand success of the album is the epic “Yamaha”-“Nikki Pt.2”-“Abyss” trifecta. Though indebted to “Little Red Corvette”, “Yamaha” maintains its own integrity and originality by being the best Prince-esque song since “Little Red Corvette”. Nash lays out his most evocative lyrics overtop ebullient synths and shimmering bells that guide the melody and patient percussion that drives it. The ambiguous chorus (“every time I mention you/ I’ll say Yamaha/ that’s my little Yamaha”) becomes an emotional tribute to his girl with each reiteration, and by “Nikki Pt.2”, he unabashedly and repeatedly declares “it’s all because of you.” For The-Dream, a love-letter isn’t enough, his passion isn’t conveyed until the whole world hears it. I haven’t heard an artist pull off aching/vulnerable and irrepressible arrogance so convincingly. “I’ve never seen an ass so fat,” he quips but by the time he sings of having her “name tattooed on my back”, he’s gone from unforgivable Casanova to endearing Romeo in one-minute.
It’s easy to hate The-Dream. His personality is one of blithe solipsism one minute and self-deprecating depression the next. Though a self-anointed sex aficionado and womanizer, his means never meet his ends, which is monogamous love. With no compunction about being an absurd contradiction, Nash created The-Dream: the guy who wants the one girl at his side but has fucked up one too many times to make it possible. It’s easy to hate him but probably easier just to identify with him.