Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Best Albums of 2009: 4. The Dream's "Love vs. Hate"

4. The Dream “Love vs. Money”

The only thing more fascinating than The Dream’s many phenomenal pop hits is the lack of attention paid to his far better solo albums.

Last year’s “Love/Hate” showed great promise, but “Love vs. Money” is an entirely different beast; going places mainstream R&B never seems to these days. Things begin exciting but expectedly so; leadoff single “Rockin That Shit” opens with luxuriant, majestic synths, and Walking On The Moon,” featuring Kanye West, and the Mariah Carey-assisted “My Love,” come complete with airtight hooks and rich, layered production, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

No, it’s when we hit the album’s middle section that The Dream really pulls out all the stops, unleashing a haunting song suite that is at the very heart of album’s power. In stark contrast with everything before it, the title track, “Love vs. Money,” boasts frantic, percussion-heavy production, over which The Dream rails bitterly against a girlfriend lost to another man. “Love vs. Money II,” immediately follows and it is stunning. The hard-hitting percussion and purposefully cluttered production on the previous track suddenly disappears, leaving whining, dissonant synths, thick bass, and lone finger snaps, over which The Dream airs out his former lover and her new man for their naivety, imploring “Kiss that nigga/Hug that nigga/Love that nigga to death/Go ahead and please that nigga/Feed that nigga/In time you’ll see the problems yourself/Cause when love is the problem/Nothing can solve it.”

Next comes the 6 and a half minute “Fancy,” the albums riskiest moment; lacking any discernable chorus or structure, it slowly winds along, constantly shape shifting over light piano, swirling strings, chopped-and-screwed vocals, and the occasional Polow Da Don-styled “EY!” It’s an incredibly bizarre arrangement; taking familiar elements and configuring them in a brilliantly unfamiliar way. In other words, you’ve failed big time if you haven’t heard this album yet.

“Love vs. Money” is the best R&B album of 2009. Period.

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