Release Date: May 28, 2013
Record label: Def Jam
Genre(s): Pop, Rap, R&B, Contemporary R&B
On the final track of The-Dream's fourth album, he sings, "I know they ain't gonna play this on top 40 radio." Sure, none of these tracks will be as big as ones he's penned for others - Umbrella, Single Ladies, Baby - but they're just as good. IV Play is a collection of sexy jams that falls somewhere between Usher-type bedroom music and the progressive R&B The-Dream's great at: like his 2010 Drake collab Shut It Down, for example. An overabundance of collaborators usually detracts from an album's mood, but not here.
Review Summary: This ain't a love songIn a contemporary R&B landscape that worships the Abel Tesfayes and James Blakes of the world, it's amazing that The-Dream can write hit after hit for prolific mainstream artists while releasing solo records of his own brand of innovative, chilled out R&B - yet still goes virtually unmentioned by the critical universe. Maybe it's the incredibly direct, sexually starved lyricism that's off-putting to some - possible, yet questionable, because while his contemporaries may not be particularly as blunt about the topic, sex is essentially the very foundation of R&B. Regardless, Terius Nash aka The-Dream is back after his more introspective 1977, a futuristic electro-soul soaked affair that welcomed a darker-themed departure from his standard fare.
More than any other genre, R&B has always functioned as music's fantasy wing, its prime venue for tales of impossible passion and magic love, a place for boasters to showcase their inveterate, hard-polished smoothness. Yet while he's established himself as a driving force in the contemporary genre, tweaking and expanding its prevailing structures, The-Dream isn't your typical soul loverman. Instead, he's shrewd, eager, and a little bit geeky, a gearhead studio fiddler who produces the majority of his own music, fixated on the sort of perfectionism that led to the long gestation time of IV Play, on which he's spent at least three years tinkering.
While Terius Nash has gained more acclaim through his work for other Pop starlets, his track record as The-Dream has had its share of successes in another manner. A descendent of R. Kelly’s unabashed musings matched with the slick undertones of Prince, Dream encapsulates a lascivious style that has been present since Love Hate, and even more so now with his latest offering IV Play.
“I know they ain’t gon’ play this on top 40 radio,” begins “Slow It Down", IV Play’s confrontational first single. An indignant backlash against the wave of EDM-R&B that’s been sweeping the airwaves of the past few years, it’s a ballsy, against-the-grain move that highlights the identity crisis that Terius Nash seems to be undergoing. But in truth, the song's dilemma applies to his entire career.
"I can give a fuck about the IV Play/I want it now," The-Dream sings on his fifth album. The Atlanta singer-songwriter's romantic poetry makes Prince look like Art Garfunkel. But if his booty-poppin' subject matter isn't original, the kaleidoscope R&B butter-storms he cooks up give his sexcapades a hallucinatory drama. Check the white-noise synth slaps on "Pussy," the sparse, swirling trills on "Turnt" (featuring Her Beyness) or his nearly seven-minute fun-house mash-up of the Neptunes and R.
There have been major disturbances in the R&B scene since The-Dream released his last “proper” album Love King in 2010. Back then, he was producing the most consistent R&B full lengths out there, but in his absence things have drastically changed. We've seen the arrival of Frank Ocean with flowing and poignant lyricism unmatched amongst his peers, The Weeknd with mysticism and levels of debauchery off the scale, and Miguel, the showman who backs his modern day Prince flamboyancy with the guitar mastery and voice to match.
It’s been a rocky few years for The-Dream. Technically speaking, one would assume IV Play is the album Dream so earnestly sang he would released on June 7th, 2011 before experiencing numerous delays through to May of this year. During that period his presence behind the scenes of major radio jams became less frequent as well, and his frustrations eventually spilled onto the internet for free in the form of 1977 that same fall.
We’re lucky to have The-Dream. In an R&B scene held hostage by hapless scolds and neurotic introspects, Terius Nash is the rare horse-arounder, a gregarious party host trafficking in lewd sex puns a la Miguel and outré, self-knowing irony a la Destroyer or Autre Ne Veut. His solo stuff is freaky, but he’s a remunerative songwriter, having penned Noughties smashes like Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” Judging by new album IV Play, Dream has soured on the good life.
“Enough with the motherfucking dance songs,” sings Terius Nash, a.k.a. The-Dream, on his new single “Slow It Down”. A bold statement coming from the producer of rump-shakers like Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”. But on his fifth solo album, IV Play, the Grammy-winning producer usurps the dance floor in the name of a little more bump and grind.
For those who found 2010’s Love King to be a rich and tuneful selection of pop-laced R&B, sparkling with lascivious charm and memorable hooks, comes an even grander, reinforced follow-up with a star-studded guest list. For those who heard nothing but vacuity and forced feelings from The-Dream through his previous output, brace yourself for more of the same but with an expansive company of Def Jam-affiliated collaborators to thicken the mix. Whatever your stance on the North Carolina pop stalwart’s sound, it’s universally acknowledged that The-Dream hasn’t been able to penetrate the mainstream in the same way as the artists he writes for.
Genius rarely lasts. Terius Nash, aka The-Dream, took R&B to new levels between 2007 and 2010 as both pop songwriter and boundary-pushing producer – but as IV Play demonstrates, the well of ideas has run dry and the magic is gone. What's left is a grotesquely diminished figure promising bad sex in return for retreads of old ideas ("I could give a fuck about the foreplay," he mutters; somewhere, R Kelly weeps).
On Love King's "Sex Intelligent Remix," the-Dream announced the title and arrival date of his fourth album. 6-6-2011 instead brought the substandard double single "Body Work"/"F*ck My Brains Out," followed a couple months later by the hyper-indulgent "Internet album" 1977, credited to Terius Nash. In 2012, two middling singles -- "Roc" and "Dope Chick" -- poked radio in the eye rather than killed it.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Terius Nash is responsible for some of the biggest radio singles in recent memory and although he may not be as prolific as a Pharrell or a Timbaland, he is consistent. His hits function as breakthrough moments (Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’), career turning points (Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’) and even expand on stratospheric fame (Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’) yet solo radio success has largely evaded him: 2010’s remarkable Love King LP peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 but failed to chart outside the US, and singles ‘Love King’ and ‘Make Up Bag’ at #92 and #33 respectively.
The opening words on The-Dream’s fourth official studio effort are “I’m tired of talking about it, let’s do it,” and the star singer-songwriter and producer cuts to the chase with a supremely explicit sex-obsessed disc. There’s little subtlety here as he goes to lyrical places his boundary-pushing influence, R. Kelly, never ventured. On the freaky Michael Jackson homage “Michael,” and “Equestrian,” which cops a metaphor from Ginuwine’s “Pony,” foreplay clearly is not on the menu.
To: Terius NashRe: IV PlayHey Terius,Sorry I left your party so quickly last night, but I decided I was gonna go home and just listen to some D’Angelo B-sides. I thought that with your insane guest list—Jay Z, Fabolous, Beyonce, Pusha T, 2 Chainz—I was in for something resembling a good time. Or at least an after-party vibe full of those sultry slow jams you brought us on 2009’s Love vs.