In this album, even miniscule fractions of a minute provide ample playground space for musical experimentation – and the results are sublime.
The-Dream: IV Play
Radio Killa, Def Jam
Despite writing some of the most ubiquitous, era-defining songs of this generation (Baby, Single Ladies, Umbrella) and sparking an R&B renaissance of sorts that made room for alternative R&B artists such as Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, the singer-songwriter and producer Terius “The-Dream” Nash faces the bizarre existential dilemma of being both a pop culture heavyweight and somewhat of an underrated artist. Is he bothered by it? Not in the slightest.
His aptly titled fourth studio album IV Play features the flagrant R Kelly influences and Prince-esque tendencies that defined most of his previous work and this time around, he’s invited quite a few of his famous friends along for the nostalgic ride. Jay-Z (who famously poked fun at The-Dream’s unfortunate sartorial mishap at this year’s Grammys) lends a lazy rap verse to the regal album opener High Art, Beyoncé struts right out of her comfort zone on the 2 Chainz-assisted Turnt, Big Sean and Pusha T lend their lyrical prowess to an unprintable track and the longtime collaborator Fabolous (who previously worked with The-Dream on the hit singles Shawty Is a Ten and Throw in the Bag) also makes an appearance.
The most notable tracks on the album include the experimental Too Early, a hip-hop and blues hybrid that features the guitarist Gary Clark Jr, and the powerfully emotive Kelly Rowland he-said-she-said heartbreak duet Where Have You Been.
The heavy influence of 1990s R&B on The-Dream’s musical aesthetic, as well as his ability to stand strong without a guest feature, is most evident on the metaphorical slow jam Equestrian. The last 14 seconds of the track morph into completely different song without so much as a warning, but somehow it makes perfect sense: in Terius Nash’s world, even minuscule fractions of a minute provide ample playground space for musical experimentation – and the results are sublime.
Even with some moments of the repetitive (New Orleans) and the downright bland (Self Conscious), The-Dream’s artistic charisma and seductive sound keep you engaged throughout the irreverent R&B opus that is IV Play.
Although the self-proclaimed “Radio Killa” writes radio hits with effortless ease for some of the most prolific names in music, he isn’t particularly concerned that his solo work doesn’t make such an impact on the mainstream. “I know they ain’t gonna play this on Top 40 Radio,” the 39-year-old nonchalantly croons on the album closer Slow It Down.
While it doesn’t quite match up to his 2009 modern classic Love vs Money, The-Dream’s latest release is sill one of the most unique and compelling progressive R&B albums of the year. By juxtaposing chauvinistic bravado with seductive romance and pouring hedonistic lyrics over Quixotic soundscapes, The-Dream has created a signature brand of baroque R&B that is all his own.
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