Love King

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Terius Nash, Carlos McKinney, and Christopher Stewart had long seized possession of the belt -- the belt for the electronic pop-R&B division, once held by innovators Leon Sylvers III, Kashif and Morrie Brown, Prince, Jam & Lewis, Teddy Riley, Timbaland and Missy Elliott, and the Neptunes -- when details of Love King materialized. Perhaps the conquest is one reason why Nash, aka the-Dream, declared that this, his third album, would be his last. As a solo artist, he had nothing left to prove. Love King, however, shows that he has plenty left to give. That goes for running his mouth, wearing out every contemporary R&B lyrical cliché, and coming off like a classless, materialistic, womanizing jerk. Once again, his way with a melody, an outrageous line, and an exquisitely adroit rhythm, all components in his immense crazy-quilt song cycle -- full of recurring lyrical themes and sonic flourishes -- transcend the flaws. Though this is the least collaborative Dream album, with McKinney and Stewart absent on six of the dozen songs, its layer upon layer of synthetic opulence and greater range of lushly detailed arrangements sometimes make the first two sound spindly and small-scoped in comparison. The drawback is that snappy singles aren’t as common, but the album is an absolute embarrassment of riches for those in love with the indulgent artist side of the-Dream. That’s not to say that those who prefer the hitmaking side are shut out. “Make Up Bag,” all boom and snap filled with swirling fluff, gives the object a second meaning with a hook worthy of a double dutch chant: “If you ever make your girlfriend mad, don’t let your good girl go bad/Drop five stacks on the makeup bag.” “Yamaha,” roaring and ecstatic, is an upgrade of “Fast Car” and his most energizing song to date. At the other end, or the bottom, is “Abyss,” an elegiac mini-epic several shades darker than anything off Love vs Money: “Bitch, I could give a damn how harsh this may seem/But I’m here to put your heart in its place/Chained up at the bottom of the lake.” “Turnt Out,” set on the slow-spin cycle, is one of many songs in which Nash broadens his range as a singer. He has sung in falsetto before, but never with such softness; it’s a charmingly imperfect guide vocal for one of his female collaborators. Evidently aware that it’s too soon to confine himself to writing and producing for others, he doesn’t wait more than 15 minutes into the album to boast “Who the fuck’s gonna replace me?” and “Six-seven-20-11, I’m-a drop that Love Affair.”

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