The-Dream had the misfortune of releasing his lauded, though underrated 2007 debut during the busy fourth-quarter of the year, in which debut artists normally get swallowed by big-time releases from well known artists being purchased for Christmas. That is exactly what happened, as the talented singer/producer's LOVE/HATE debuted at #30. I don't remember the numbers he posted (somewhere in the 60-70K range I'd estimate), but they weren't representative of his talent, though that could be said of so many who have come and gone in/out of the industry. Despite horrible odds stacked against LOVE/HATE, it managed to go gold after a number of strong singles including "Shawty is Da Sh**" (feat. Fabolous), "Falsetto", and my personal favorite "I Luv Your Girl". What was striking to me is how people could possibly sleep on what was one of the most unique R&B releases in some time, strung together as a narrative almost, an approach the dream would use on Mary J. Bliges's Grammy winning GROWING PAINS. But theories aside, LOVE VS. MONEY is even stronger than LOVE/HATE and has the chance to make more of an impact - if people get out and buy this fantastic album. It does something I haven't seen a contemporary R&B album do for sometimes - have a consistent album that has not one miss and I mean none. This album is nearly perfect.
I tend to favor neo-soul releases as far as R&B is concerned, but a solid contemporary R&B release like this one is again another inescapable album by The-Dream. First single "Rockin' That Thang" (or "Rockin' That Sh**") is another fine first-single for The-Dream, not dissimilar from "Shawty Is Da Sh**". In my eyes, it may be even catchier than its predecessor, despite inherent similarities in both production and conception. If The-Dream does one thing on this album that was lacking on LOVE/HATE, it is he heightens his songwriting skills while his producing buddy "Tricky" tightens up at the boards.
"Walkin' On The Moon" featuring Kanye West shows this progression. Here style/tempo changes (not-so subtle) help to show The-Dream as an innovative soul in the R&B realm, something that the style needs, particularly contemporary R&B. West sounds fine here, but The-Dream holds down this neo-disco track fine, just to show you his strength. "My Love" featuring Mariah Carey is excellent too, and could prove to be a strong hit on the Pop/R&B charts. If The-Dream makes concessions to commercialism, it is with a track like "My Love", which proves to be less conceptual than some of the more experimental, less commercial tracks from LOVE vs. MONEY. Of course LOVE vs. MONEY is a very commercial album, but it also allows for The-Dream to experiment like a rock star would. Think Prince ladies and gentlemen, only with modern-day styling.
"Put It Down" and "Sweat It Out" are by far the best tracks of LOVE VS MONEY, as hard as it is to pick when every track is strong. Here, The-Dream really stretches out and over these lengthy Tricky-helmed ditties, as an R&B listener, you truly hear different sounds than have been heard/experimented previously. Honestly, The-Dream goes above and beyond what R-Kelly does, showing how relevant The-Dream has become in urban music. "Take U Home 2 My Mama" lays just as well, while the exceptional linked "Love vs. Money" and "Love vs. Money Part 2" are both equally alluring. Production is top rate and The-Dream sounds as if his vocal chops have grown, though they were already solid.
"Fancy" plays on true minimalism with a repetitive piano loop that eventually adds sounds/instruments - brilliant. "Right Side of the Brain" doesn't live up to "Fancy", but as a 4-star track, it has no shame whatsoever in my eyes and just adds more evidence towards the true magnitude that is LOVE VS. MONEY. "Mr. Yeah" and the massively creative "Kelly's 12 Play" are superb while the banging club bonus track "Let Me See The Booty" (feat. Lil Jon) just maybe TOO COOL to appear on any R. Kelly album (not knocking Kelly, but The-Dream is quickly giving him a run for his money!). What more is there to say? LOVE VS. MONEY is by far the year's best R&B album and honestly in what has began as a stale year in many respects, this is one of the very best albums of 2009. I hope to see you nominated for Grammys Dream, it's about time. 4.5 stars.