The-Dream, the songwriter, arranger, and artist born Terius Nash, is the mind behind the melody of some of the biggest radio hits of the past five years or so. Most often along with the equally important Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, the-Dream penned megasmashes like Rihanna's "Umbrella," Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body," and even Beyoncé's "Single Ladies."
Pop and R&B aficionados who listen closely can pick out a song by
him easily. There's a certain repetition of key notes and leaps across
intervals from low to high and back. There's also the frequent
repetition and drawing out of vowels -- the "ehhh, ehhh, ehhh" in
"Umbrella," for example, or the "beeeed, beeed, beeed" in the song that
was his breakout of sort, J. Holiday's 2007 single "Bed."
But while the-Dream has excelled at creating radio staples for others, the same kind of platinum-selling success has mostly eluded him in his own material. That's a shame, but it's not completely surprising. Across the trilogy of his past three albums -- Love Hate, Love vs. Money, and Love King -- his work has proven to be relatively leftfield. The sunny, easy melodies are mostly skipped in favor of darker, weirder stuff (at least for glossy R&B with mainstream aspirations). The songs are sexy but in a far more dangerous way than, say, the syrupy tones of "Bed."
In about a week, the-Dream launches a new national tour, the "Kill the Lights" tour, which includes a headlining slot at Pitchfork's SXSW showcase (sharing an amazingly unexpected bill with Grimes, Purity Ring, Nicolas Jaar, Charli XCX, and even Fiona Apple!).
According to the site for his record label, Radio Killa Records, dates are planned only through March 28... But according to the Source and various other hip-hop sites, the tour brings him to South Florida on April 12, when he performs at Revolution, and comes in advance of the release of a new album, The Love IV: Diary of a Madman, due out sometime between now and summer.
In advance of the show, here are five other excellent original songs by the-Dream from his previous original albums.
"Let Me See the Booty," from Love vs. Money, 2009
This was technically a bonus track, features Lil Jon, and manages to somehow rhyme home with thong in the first few minutes. OK, but the mix of the screaming, a sung melody that slides up and down, and a hard, computerized backbeat makes this an underappreciated bit of sonic drama.
"Make Up Bag," from Love King, 2010
The actual message of this song is pretty monstrously sexist -- do something fucked up in your relationship, buy your girlfriend some expensive shit to shut her up. Damn it if it isn't catchy as hell, though, built on the same kind of repetition of a few words and vowels -- "make up bag, make up bag, make up baaaag" -- as many of his other songs. T.I. comes along in the middle to name-drop Marc Jacobs, Louie V., and the Centurion Card -- not too original, but he isn't the point of this song.
"Walking on the Moon," from Love Vs. Money, 2009
This is pretty much the closest he got to a mid-period Michael Jackson dance number, and it works. A little Kanye cameo always makes things nicer too.
"Turnt Out," from Love King, 2010
Everything from the falsetto croon to the grinding backbeat of this song just feels... sticky. Plus there's the line "You're my bakery, where's my dessert," which is so brazenly cheesy, it's kind of amazing.
"I Luv Your Girl," From Love Hate, 2007
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All right, this was an actual radio hit. In fact, it was so widespread that the bit of falsetto-sliding dialogue from the woman in question -- "ohhhh, that nigg-aaahhh" (bleeped out of the radio version, of course) -- wound up quoted in Jamie Foxx's "Blame It on the Alcohol." This video's for the remixed version featuring Jeezy, who was quite popular for guest raps around that time (see also: Usher's "Love in this Club," et al.).