[2 April 2009]
Back in February, I expressed how anxious I was for The-Dream’s follow-up to Love/Hate. So with that type of anticipation, when it came out, how could I be anything but disappointed?
Sure, there were some big tunes, but “Rockin’ That Shit” and “Walkin On The Moon” were released before the album, so I had played them out by the time Love Vs. Money was released. There were some other strong efforts too - his weird two-part song cycle (can two songs be a song cycle?) of “Love Vs. Money Part 1” and “Part 2” was good, and though they didn’t say what I suspect he hoped they would, they were catchy with some fairly hard and interesting production. There was really only one truly weak song, “Fancy”, but even it was weird and ambitious. So, the album was only disappointing when compared to the mastery displayed on his debut, and wasn’t weak when compared to other R&B albums.
The reason for disappointment was because this didn’t have the cohesion of his debut effort. The pop sensibilities were there, and Dream proved that he is the “R&B Gorilla”, but this release seems like a group of songs, whereas Love/Hate seemed like a smoothly-transitioning album. I hope The-Dream gets really popular with so he can relax and express the confidence and risk-taking that was so evident on the first release.
When looking at the tracklist, it seems like the most promising song would be “Kelly’s 12 Play”, but it falls short of what it could’ve been, instead the stand-out tracks all involved the same chorus rewritten three times, each time with just as much effectiveness. It took a number of listens before I realized that when I was humming “Put It Down” to myself, I questioned as to whether I was actually humming “Sweat It Out”, or perhaps “Mr Yeah”. The-Dream managed to take the same choral hook and use it throughout the album, which brought about the album’s only hint of cohesion.
The chorus for these three songs is also similar to my favorite track from Love/Hate, “Falsetto”, where it involves a phrase/sound repeated in a melodic and catchy way as it travels its way down the scale.
“Put It Down” is the first song on Love Vs. Money to employ the technique. After some of Dream’s best lines from the album (“I’m all up on you like a monster truck / I’m all up on you like shorty what’s up / I’m all on you like a white tee on a thug”)the chorus makes its entrance, where “You put it down / Put it down / Put it down / Put it down / Put it down”, is repeated as an echo to the alternating lines: “When they aks ‘bout me”, “Does he make your horn go beep?”, “Is he any good from the back”, “What about this way?”
Now, this chorus doesn’t make a lot of sense to me when it comes to the actual lyrics, but the back-ups are outstanding; Dream really knows how to emphasize lines, and the chorus is so smooth and catchy it runs through my mind all day. The production on this song is among the best on the album, and when Dream goes into his sing-rap part about Atlanta, it’s a nice switch-up that keeps the song interesting, adding layers of melody and production which make the song seem well-paced and consistently interesting even when it stretches past five minutes.
Directly following this song is the second employment of this choral technique, in the ode to messing up a girl’s hair during intercourse, “Sweat It Out”.
“Sweat It Out” has basically the same chorus except instead of “Put it down”, he repeats “Sweat It Out”, but only three times. The song is much more rigid and empty than “Put It Down”, but it works well and comes off as more of an R&B minimal slow-burn ballad, until the end, when the song explodes.
“Sweat It Out” is a lot more to the point than “Put It Down”, and basically takes us through a Dream-plus-partner love-making session. I’m not entirely sure as my R&B knowledge isn’t what it could be, but is this the first song to focus on messing up your partner’s hair? This is something Dream often touches on, how he really likes to play in his lady’s hair (just listen to “Playin’ In Her Hair” from his debut), and on this song he brings in his partner’s acknowledgment of this act: “She just gotta have it, but you know I can’t stop it / So right after we’re finished, I’m gonna get your shit fixed.” Some of the weirder song content from a pop singer, but it fits the pensive/confessional tone of the song.
“Sweat It Out” takes the chorus template and strips it down, while “Mr Yeah” trumps it up to its most sugarry and mainstream. “Mr Yeah” starts off just like “Shawty Is Da Shit” but takes a good turn when the huge bubbling bass kicks in and Dream proclaims “Cupid ain’t got shit on me” (I believe him). This chorus also takes the choral pattern to a new leve by playing with the scale’s pattern. Though it starts the same as the others, after the “Yeah” repeats four times, it continues and brings the melody around on itself.
This song is matched with thicker production and seems a little more radio-ready, layering piano, the aforementioned deep-bass and, at times, spacey sounding synth stabs. The song ends with the more emotional side of Dream before he asks “Can we fuck now?” which brings us to the ending of the album proper as it leads into “Kelly’s 12 Play”. As you can guess from the title, this song is about listening to R. Kelly’s 12 Play. Can you guess what The-Dream is doing while listening the album? I bet you can.
Though you’d think that using essentially the same chorus three times would come off as lazy, instead this chorus is the highlight of the album. Each time it shows up, it’s re-imagined in some way and fits with the song and adds a string of similarity on a fairly disconnected album.