Thee-Dreem - Luv vs. Munny pt. 2
New album seems to be better than his last one, though I think I underrated the last one. My listening experience of it was (maybe necessarily?) fragmented, and driven by the singles, I guess. And I never had an “album listen” with it, really, just collection-of-song-like scattered enjoyment. I think I even categorized it in my thumbs-down category, which was definitely a mistake.
Anyway, this one is at least more conceptually interesting, and I’m trying to figure out why that concept seems to be either mitigating (album’s unevenness) or reversing (my aversion to The-Dream as a performer) former opinions. For one thing, the album is stronger as an album, for a few reasons:
Narrative — Sex jams slowly churn their way into “maybe there’s something more here,” until the two-part title track sequence (second part here) in which he blames himself first and then says, hey, wait, it was HER fault, too. He compresses Kanye’s album experiment into a really interesting song cycle: (1) “maybe this great sex could lead to something more” (2) “oh shit, it can’t, and now you’re fucking someone else” (3) “hey, you were just a gold digger anyway!” (4) “but I can’t blame you for that, I mean, it’s not like I didn’t encourage it, and look at where we came from etc. etc.” (5) “what was I thinking? I threw logic out the window! OMG I AM AWFUL AND SO IS EVERYTHING.” And then back to sex jams.
References — He’s meta as hell, but it kind of works: he casts himself quite literally as R. Kelly’s protege in this one, most literally on “Kelly’s 12 Play” in which he’s more careful about making sure the “12 Play” CD doesn’t skip than he is with, like, actually having sex with this woman. He uses it as an instruction manual, and once he’s graduated from the Kells Academy he puts on his own shit. He’s got a long way to go, but he can get even nastier than Kells without particularly raising an eyebrow, which is saying something. How’s this for a post-coital sigh: “Thanks for the birthday cake / Look at you, lookin’ like a milkshake.”
Beauty — I don’t know if he’s just gotten better as a performer or the production is more immersive (less reliant on guest spots, denser) this time out, but damn, this is a really pretty album. It can out-perpetual-crescendo a post-rock jam, it can out-sing-up-the-major-scale Sufjan Stevens. Which is to say that there’s a certain baroqueness to it along with the obvious futurism; something orchestral about it (imagine a real orchestra playing the electronic approximation of one in this track) that underscores a kind of maximalism that I’m not sure I’m hearing many other places lately, though I probably don’t listen to enough R&B to be able to say that with any certainty.