#1 Album for 2009: The-Dream - Love vs. Money (Def Jam)
i came to love vs. money only a month or so after discovering terius nash and his amazing first album, love/hate. that record came out in december ‘08, just late enough to make a big splash on 2009 year-end polls. by the time i really absorbed any of it love vs. money was on the shelves. i bought it the day it came out in early march. in a sense this was the best way to “get into” the-dream—with two albums worth of his maximal, highly self-referential take on r&b to deal with at once, i started to hear him trade themes, lines, and even individual sounds between the two. the effect was dizzying; the music seemed unbelievably intricate. because, while i’m not normally a big fan of meta, the-dream just has so much fun with it, and he makes you believe it’s all a part of some kaleidoscopic larger narrative. and sometimes maybe it is: lvm opens with 5 love songs, culminating in “put it down,” and “sweat it out,” both packed with the type of detailed lyrics that only nash can write, both spliced with tender feeling and goofy humor simultaneously. following these are a staggering four-song breakup set—“love vs. money” parts 1 and 2, “fancy” (a six and a half minute story-song that’s just kind of out on its own planet), and “right side of my brain,” which you can listen to above and which matches nash’s gift for melody and wordplay (he sells “touch/untouch” and “love/unlove”) with his producers’ best musical qualities: huge synths, oddball vocal samples, monumental drums, and an unerring ability to ride the line between “too much” and “just enough.” after this it’s actually hard to recover for the end of the record, even though the last two songs are ace and the very last line namechecks (what else?) listening to the-dream’s first cd on a hookup.
it adds up to an exhausting and inspiring record of the year. no one else had a fuller vision, and i don’t think anyone else gave us more of themselves. but it’s the little things i always come back to. at the beginning of “love vs. money” (part 1) the music darkens and nash says something like “i’m gonna tell a different kind of story.” and all these songs are stories: they’re human-scale (believe it or not), they’re relatable, they make you laugh, they make you feel pain. supposedly the third the-dream album is out this year. how could anyone truly be ready?