After hearing The-Dream on Pusha T’s new track, ‘M.F.T.R.’, I’ve been on a bit of a Dream kick. So, it only felt right to review what is perhaps his best received album to date, Love King. Having always been known for his audibly salient, lush and expansive productions he only improves on his previous works here. There is honestly no end to the layers that can be heard within each song, yet everything is more meticulously placed than support beams in a skyscraper. Piano notes and diverse synth compositions intertwine without overlapping or overwhelming. The man simply knows how to craft fantastic symphonies of sound. His knowledge extends beyond production and songwriting into territories that are reserved for few individuals.
His musical style is that of giving his biggest influences brash and arrogant makeovers. His music still bears its resemblance to these artists from the Prince-fashioned falsettos and MJ-style shouts to the overtly sexual R. Kelly utterings. The literal manifestation of this occurrence can be heard on ‘Turnt Out’ which features the slow jazzy-elements and some sexually forward falsettos that transition into updated synths and light finger snaps. The-Dream’s roots go deep but his branches spread far, that is to say that he maintains elements of his predecessors but is definitely not stuck in the past; in fact he probably pushed R&B forward a few years with each album.
One aspect of his music that I feel may never be topped, is his writing. Maybe it’s a matter of personal preference but I find it phenomenal how he can elicit such strong sexual themes while giving it a slight touch of hyperbolic and aware humor. ‘February Love’ literally has me laughing out loud every time I hear it. From him asking the girl he’s with to check his taxes to verify his financial worth to this line…“I know this may sound stalkerish, but that’s because you are the shit, alright?”, it’s hard to not applaud the man who can make this all sound so right and so good. It is also another example of how ear-catching his production can be, as we hear it build from a monotonous piano to a complex arrangement of sound over a two-minute span of time.
The song length keeps a steady average pace of over four minutes and it is perhaps the best move The-Dream made on this project. Just listen to the production and disagree with me after. Honestly, he gives each song enough room to blossom a few times over. Elements drop out just as soon as you notice a new one and this process is as mentally engaging as a you could possibly ask from music. No two songs sound overly identical, not even ‘Sex Intelligence’ or ‘Sex Intelligent Remix’ which are placed back to back on the tracklist sound like the same song. The-Dream is a synergistic machine. Each song retains intense individuality yet the entire three-album arc of Love/Hate, Love Vs. Money and Love King, can be played in sequence and sound like it was meant to. This level of quality is hard to match; music that is perfectly tuned for radio play, yet daring enough to escape the mainstream’s undercurrent. For music that sounds this good, nearly any lapses in quality can be forgiven.