The-Dream

Love/Hate

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When Terius "The-Dream" Nash released his first album, during the third-to-last week of 2007, the Top 30 of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart contained five songs he co-wrote, only one of which was credited to him as a performer. Four of these singles -- Mary J. Blige's "Just Fine," J. Holiday's "Suffocate" and "Bed," and his own "Shawty Is da Sh*!" -- were on their way to the Top Five. Six months earlier, another song involving his input, Rihanna's "Umbrella," hit number one on the Hot 100. For Love/Hate's duration, Nash sticks with close associates Christopher "Tricky" Stewart and Carlos "L.O.S." McKinney. Not only does it lend the album a unified sound unlike most modern R&B albums, but it has the effect of a suite, with common elements shared between tracks; some of the transitions would make any album sequencing assistant deeply envious. When it comes to the songs he keeps to himself, the persona maintained is closer to the one within "Bed." He is a lecherous braggart, albeit one with a slightly chirpy voice who is ultimately a charmingly vulnerable romantic, which brilliantly offsets the chumpishness. Hubris peaks in "Falsetto," where Nash not only has the nerve to work up an impression of a conquest hitting the high notes, but makes it the hook of the song -- and yet, it comes off as the harmless kid brother of Ginuwine's "Pony." There's the gently booming sleazeball doo wop of "I Luv Your Girl," where he pulls another man's girl but cannot help himself, simultaneously brutish and lovestruck. Then, in "Playin' in Her Hair," he involuntarily drops the Lothario act entirely, reduced to awe: "It ain't about the Benz or the money/She's my bee, I'm her honey." From a purely sonic standpoint, it's all state-of-the art pop circa 2007-2008. The sound of the album is resolutely luminescent, its rubbery rhythms -- sometimes colored by those swishing, panning effects heard in "Bed" and its many imitators -- accompanied by layers of components that include twinkling keyboards, rippling synths, and baroque touches like synthetic strings and harpsichords. Love/Hate is, undoubtedly, a post-Timbaland/post-Neptunes pop album, but neither one of them has put together something as consistent or tautly constructed, simultaneously single-oriented and album-oriented, as this.

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