Terius Nash is something like a chameleon, with his songwriting and production morphing to fit the mold of whichever artist he’s working with. It’s a skill that bleeds into his own solo projects, too. On 2007’s Love Hate, the sound reflects the times: One moment there’s slaphappy flirtation and the next serious grind times. Six years later, The-Dream still leans on that formula with his fifth studio album IV Play (out May 28), mainly because it works. Throwing caution to the wind, The-Dream crafts sexually charged soliloquies that could either excite or offend you (more on that later).
IV Play opens with “High Art,” a woozy Auto-Tuned cut that sounds like the lovechild of Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” and Jeremih’s “Down On Me.” Jay-Z hops in his DeLorean to rhyme like he’s not married to Queen Beysus, urging his girl that he’s only going out with the fellas despite her suspecting otherwise. Meanwhile The-Dream is blowing lines about getting high with his boys following coital escapades. It’s a strong opener especially given the cameo, but the high points don’t stop there—despite being laden with profanities and borderline nymphomania. Big Sean and Pusha T play the giggling homeboys to the perverted Mr. Nash on “Pussy,” on which Terius proves a master multitasker—“I got my left hand on that booty/Got my right hand on that pussy,” he croons over crashing thunderclaps. You’ve got to love the subtlety.
The sexual metaphors eventually get tiring, evidenced by “Equestrian,” on which The-Dream likens sex to riding a horse or the title track where even when attempting romance, Terius still has to squeeze in the freak. Even while singing in the late Michael Jackson’s cadence on “Michael,” The-Dream drops F-bombs (something the King of Pop would never do on wax). He strays from the suggestiveness in rare (but beautiful) moments on the album. “Where Have You Been” gets a powerful cameo from Kelly Rowland, who tames The-Dream into lines about setting his love apart from the rest of the pack. The now-obligatory ratchet record comes on "Turnt," with a few phoned-in lines from Beyonce (was Ciara busy or something?) that merely simmers in comparison to their scrapped ganga ode, "Fire" (held for sample clearance reasons). On “Self-Conscious,” The-Dream tells his girl she doesn’t need to be bashful; he loves her just the way she is. It’s a pleasant break from the back-breaking that dominates the body of the work.
With an album title like IV Play, you know what you’re in for (although it sounds like Dream doesn’t believe in actual foreplay). While the lyrics at times eclipse his actual vocals, it’s still an entertaining ride. The songs are dripping in sex and go against any radio-friendly formula, but that’s The-Dream’s whole shtick. He doesn’t have to give you singles; he can write those for other people. He just came to bang. —Kathy Iandoli