Music

The-Dream: Love King

After a two-year hiatus in which Nash completely dominated urban radio charts and threatened to excuse himself from the music industry forever, his The-Dream character finally returns.


The-Dream

Love King

Label: Radio Killa/Def Jam
US Release Date: 2010-06-29
UK Release Date: Import
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In 2010, Terius Nash stands as an unmovable mountain, an axis upon which all of modern R&B pivots its actions and measures it's movements. The past decade saw Nash ascend from the low-key jet fuel that provided Nivea with any sort of career to the writer of songs like Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable" and "Single Ladies", J. Holiday's "Bed" and "Suffocate", the near entirety of Mariah Carey's second Mimi installment, Rihanna's "Hard" and the ubiquitous "Umbrella", and of course Justin Bieber's current all-ages smash "Baby". And these are just the most memorable moments in his songwriting oeuvre, one that includes his own four-member girl group and a number of signature adlibs that have been saturated across all of urban radio.

Dream's success as a songwriter is, at this point, unassailable. He is the undisputed Radio Killa, the man to whom one goes when a hit is really all you need. It is interesting how successful his songs for others have been, because Dream has been unable to match that success with his own singles. When he burst onto the scene with "I Luv Your Girl", "Falsetto" and "Shawty Is da Sh*!" in 2007, Dream's hits felt unstoppable for their uniqueness and their melodic power. But his similar-sounding hits for J. Holiday in the same period gave listeners a hot tip: Dream may be able to perform his songs, but he can't necessarily sing them. Or, as church folk would say, he plain can't sang. The-Dream is a constantly Auto-tuned spectacle, albeit less obviously than a Kanye West or Lil' Wayne, and for some this 'lack of talent' will always be a barrier to entry. It didn't help that Nash's follow up record, 2008's Love vs. Money, was a moderately dense concept record that eschewed sure fire hits in favor of a five-song suite, tributes to Prince and Michael Jackson, and a very healthy dose of catalog recycling. Critics responded, audiences and the Grammy committee didn't, and Dream announced Love King would be his last album. An aural middle finger, and that would be it. If the industry won't show it's wonder boy any love, screw 'em.

Don't worry, I'm ready to talk about Love King. But with Terius Nash, more than any current R&B artist you need the backstory to understand where he is today. Not only because of the aforementioned catalog recycling -- "Sex Intelligent" borrows key schematics from Ciara's current radio smash "Ride", "Yamaha" is a direct update of "Fast Car" from his debut, "February Love" makes allusions to "Fancy" in some ways while "Nikki, Pt. 2" and "Abyss" do it in others. The playful piano of "Shawty Is da Sh*!" appears throughout in one way or another. "Make Up Bag" alludes to his infamous "to the left, to the left" from "Irreplaceable". Not only because of those things, but because without all his context one might not realize that The-Dream, as of Love King, is a conceptual character, not just a stage name. The beats on Love King ooze with Atlantan strip club ethics, and many of the lyrics are especially brooding and focused on repetitive hooks and sexual desire. The album opens with its lead single and title track, a song that on its surface feels disturbingly simple even for The-Dream but over repeat listens reveals itself to be the ultimate definition of an earworm. It's too simplistic chorus and "Girls, Girls, Girls"/"Pimpin' All over the World" motif are mere vehicles for Nash to flex his incredible melodic muscles over one of the few truly unique productions Love King offers up.

In doing so, he proffers that The-Dream is no longer about one hellishly aggravating woman as he foolishly hoped to be on Love/Hate, and he's no longer worried whether women love him or the money more as on Love vs. Money. No, Dream is only concerned now about proving to all women in the world that he can love them better, treat them better, live them better. And along the path to lack of devotion, The-Dream has concocted his most candy-coated album to date. While Love King can't boast a song suite as fantastic as that found on Love vs. Money, it does take his gift for mixing and sequencing to its breaking point. The breakneck, early '80s Prince funk of "Yamaha" should not properly fit anywhere on this album, but through a clever use of revved engines near the end of "Sex Intelligent [Remix]" and a very '80s Prom Night introduction to "Nikki, Pt. 2", Dream is able to keep the pace up as though a song had never ended. And speaking of "Sex Intelligent", the duo acts as a near 10-minute soliloquy on Dream's prolific bedroom exploits despite being split on the tracklist. "Nikki" becomes "Abyss" before one can even realize, co-opting the mood change from "Fancy" to meet new needs.

There are, however, two moments not even The-Dream can render useful. "Panties to the Side" feels like a song this sort of dude would smash out of the park, but he instead uses it as an opportunity to lament his lack of marketability and inability to become the face of his own music. It's not a very fun song anyway, and Dream's typically vapid and simple lyrics fail to make the point he hopes to make. The song is just confusing. The closing song, "Florida University", alludes to an earlier exclamation of "Fuck You!" directed at Nikki, but whatever steps it takes towards conceptual relevance are ruined by its tired, uninspiring Miami club setting that feels more appropriate for someone like Flo Rida, or a more upbeat, vacuous album than Love King. These songs are borderline awful. There's also more than a few nuggets of what I like to call Dreamisms, lyrics that can only sound good in the superficial world he's created for himself. The exclamation that he sent Nikki's photos to TMZ is the most obvious and unrelatable, but it's definitely not the one and only such moment. While these lyrics are clumsy, for the most part they don't do much to actually derail the album. Amazingly, for example, he exclaims on "Yamaha": "Still got your name tattooed on my back" not just once, but in a refrain. And it works.

The Deluxe Edition of the disc expands Love King to Nash's magnum opus, a 17-track behemoth of audio candy. And if one were to drop "Florida University" from their playlists, "Veteran" would feel like a logical next step from "February Love". "All Black Everything" becomes one of the disc's highlights, with Dream setting up a date involving, of course, all black everything. Sure it's a trendy number in the wake of Jay-Z's "Death of Autotune"/"Run This Town" all black movement (and more recently Jeezy's "All White Everything" single), but The-Dream captures that trend with gusto and some of his wittier lyrical turns. Even with the bonus songs, the best thing about Love King really is how seamless it is. Casual and focused listens alike come with such ease and comfort thanks to Dream's attention to detail, and while some folks no doubt will be angry to hear Dream re-writing his own songs again, I'd counter that Nash writes one hell of a song, and shows no signs on Love King of losing that magic touch. As far as I'm aware, this is Dream's swan song, a bloated melodic mess of sugar and exotic fruit for the ears. But he does claim to be dropped something called Love Affair this time next year on "Sex Intelligent [Remix]", so it remains to be seen if Nash can keep his word and leave his genie in a bottle forever more. Personally, I seriously hope he's not lying here.

The-Dream continues to be the lone artist in today's R&B scene that seems to be able to execute a conceptual vision, and be more than a vehicle for whatever is happening and hot on the radio. Love King is, quite simply, a fantastic album, and perhaps the only mainstream R&B album worth purchasing all year. And definitely, definitely get the Deluxe Edition. It features some of Nash's most adventurous productions and melodies to date, and really gives the album a different feel, as well as a more functional ending.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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