Since 2007, The-Dream (Terius Nash) has released three albums that have usurped seemingly unshakeable R&B lotharios, making memories of prior pop seem foggy and far off. Working in a genre that doesn’t see as much top-status type turnover as its hyper competitive younger cousin, The-Dream has conquered based on the timeless combination of songwriting prowess (see: Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” Rihanna’s “Umbrella”) and an angelic voice hidden behind an unassuming persona. And, thankfully, his latest and possibly last solo, Love King, isn’t exactly a variation on that winning formula.
Love King has a thematically narrow focus, but no one would say Marvin Gaye or Prince should’ve quit love songs. The most carnal, but still so everyday, type of passion informs the 12 effect-heavy, name-dropping, almost grossly slick tracks: it’s guilty pleasure R&B, except you don’t actually feel so guilty about it. That might be due to The-Dream’s neutralizing alpha male steez delivered via ultra-smooth production, or that this is so obviously R&B for a 2010 audience.
Sonically, Love King is the kind of record you’ll want to play over and over because it’s so aurally pleasing. On “Sex Intelligent” and its remix—that, together, clock in at about 10 minutes—the most minimal of bass lines expands into deep spacey synths while traditional R&B drums keep hip-rocking time. The-Dream proves that he’s going for flawlessly executed Prince homages with hyper-stylized “Yamaha” and fluttery falsettoed “Turnt Out.” T.I.-featuring snap and synth “Make Up Bag”—a study in ATL-honed strip club slinkiness—is probably the best track on the album. For the rest, the melodies might not be as strong as his past output (though his writing is still ultra hook-y), but its more fun to lose yourself in the warm, cocooning soundscape of “Nikki Part 2″ or the ultra soft rise-and-fall piano on “February Love.”