Between 2007 and 2010 The-Dream was on an undoubtable hot streak, and his Love Trilogy was essential listening for those who wanted to hear the hottest R&B albums of the time. Follow up 1977 was a change in sound and tact but is still a triumph. Then came IV Play in 2013, an album that was distinctly average, and a distinct let down. After this, Royalty: The Prequel arrived in July 2014, an EP of filler with little replay value.
The-Dream's first three albums—in particular, his 2007 debut Love/Hate—relied upon a delicate balance of songcraft with the singer/songwriter's foibles and quirks. There was a playfulness to his best songs which never undercut their sincere emotional power; if anything, the tossed-off lyrics enhanced that power, his irreverence contrasting starkly with the song's overwhelming emotional intensity. This was a skill he channeled from R.
Terius Nash announced in early 2014 that he and Def Jam had parted ways. Within only a few months, he returned as a Capitol artist with "Black," a proud, out-of-character single that namechecked Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Marvin Gaye. A full year later, Crown arrived as the first of two 2015 EPs, with Jewel planned for two months afterward.
More than any R&B singer or songwriter working today, The-Dream knows that the better part of seduction is vulnerability. In his world, humbling yourself gets the prize. It may also explain why when he writes songs for others, like Beyoncé or Rihanna, he paints those women as conquering heroes, impervious to anything so trifling as male bravado. On “Crown,” his new EP, The-Dream is a happy underdog right from the start.