The title of The-Dream’s third album, Love King (the third in his “love” trilogy), is nothing if not ironic. Certainly, Terius Nash makes it his business to inform the listener of his magnetism toward the opposite sex, and just about every song on Love King reflects that, yet often less with regard to love than lust. What’s more, about half the songs on the album address the R&B maestro’s problems with women, even to the point of scathing bitterness on “Abyss.” Yet, most ironic of all is that fact that The-Dream comes off as someone who is, in fact, very hard to love. He’s a jerk, a womanizer, and apparently doesn’t have a problem that can’t be solved with empty gestures of materialism (see: “Make Up Bag”).
Despite all of Nash’s inherent character flaws, however, he’s actually quite easy to like, and this is thanks in large part to his outstanding songs. Much like Prince, a massive influence on Nash’s music, The-Dream makes up for any personal shortcomings by richly arranged and sonically powerful pop songs. Reaching a new peak of melodic transcendence on Love King, The-Dream amplifies and expands the sound laid out on his previous two albums, layering lush, cosmic synthesizers and rock solid beats, opening up what would be fairly straightforward melodies into spectacular sonic playgrounds.
Though Love vs. Money and Love/Hate were driven more by singles, Love King is more of a cohesive unit. That said, its highlights are numerous. In particular, the centerpiece trilogy of “Yamaha,” “Nikki Pt. 2” and “Abyss” line up a magnificent mid-album peak that rank among the best songs in Nash’s catalog. The deep, sputtering beats and comparison of a sexual partner to a vehicle in “Yamaha” will no doubt remind listeners of “Little Red Corvette,” and with good reason. The song doesn’t sound exactly like Prince by coincidence. But it nonetheless contains Nash’s own personal stamp on it, and is one of the most vibrant and transcendent pop songs of the year. On the other hand, “Abyss” is the album’s darkest, most mean-spirited moment, as Nash sings, “I’m here to put your heart in its place/ Chained up at the bottom of the lake.” And the sexy, laid back “Turnt Out” shows off Nash’s vocal range, his falsetto floating gently above the dreamy slow jam.
Terius Nash isn’t the sort of guy you’d want to bring home to meet your folks. Sure, he’s charming, but make no mistake, someone’s probably going to get hurt. But even if he’s a lousy husband, boyfriend or even roommate, you can’t deny that the guy oozes charisma. More importantly, he’s one of the most creative and inventive R&B artists to emerge in recent years, and Love King is his most incredible, irresistible statement.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.