Who will heal The-Dream's funny-bone? Who will tickle his love handles and send him into fits of uncontrollable laughter?
Who will curl his toes? Close down designer boutiques with him? Help him break in his stable of expensive automobiles? In short, who will make and keep this man happy? Are you that somebody?
If you are, I implore you - nay, beg you - to move Heaven and Earth to cheer Nash up, like, yesterday; if you can't do it for me, do it for the sake of raunchy, gleefully tongue-in-cheek R&B. Nash used to be really good at raunchy, gleefully tongue-in-cheek R&B. There was no need, in his estimation, for ecstatic devotional paeans and slow sex jams to be so damned serious. Didn't anyone remember laughter, playfulness, or just-short-of-perfect production values? So Nash exaggerated and exploded the genre's framework on 2009's dynamite Love vs. Money, landing on countless best-of lists, staking a not-inconsiderable claim as a worthy heir to Cap'n Bump'N'Grind himself: R. Kelly.
(A great deal might be said about Nash and Tricky Stewart's like contributions to other artists working in the pop, R&B, and rap realms, but that's a different article.)
Then Nash - shortly after getting married for the second time - was photographed vacationing with his assistant. Predictably, his marriage collapsed; less predictably, his solo songwriting darkened, becoming sleek, ornate, almost Gothic sonically and brittle, butt-hurt, and bitter lyrically. Technically brilliant but soulless, last year's Love King felt like a tortured, humorless take on 80s Prince, and - with the exception of the title track, which in retrospect registers as a jeering, spasmodic riff on Nash's public persona circa then - wasn't much fun. Love King did not inspire much in the way of awestruck hosannas; it did not top as many top ten lists as Love vs. Money had. It was supposed to be Nash's last solo record, which everybody was kind of okay with even though we all know that urban-pop music retirement talk is mostly bullshit.
Released in advance of the forthcoming The Love, IV: Diary of a Madman, 1977 - which is most pointedly not a mixtape, but rather a "free album " - mostly picks up where Love King left off, except that there's tons more pathos and bedroom-eyed guitar runs, and the melodies are weaker and the whole thing is less funny and less satisfying than ever.
You can download the thing free and legal here, though we wouldn't recommend it. Below are some thoughts on this stillborn abortion of an album, curiously credited to "Terius Nash" as opposed to "The-Dream."
Wake Me When It's Over
Luscious, cascading synthesizers in service of some pre-"Irreplaceable"-esque bullshit. Nash is in fine enough voice here given the limits of his quasi-falsetto vocal range - there isn't much of one, so production legerdemain and effects are pretty key to his deal - but as a whole none of this sticks to the ribs on a "My Love" level or even on a "Makeup Bag" level. I hate on Love King a lot but that album at least had some hypnotically intoxicating textural things happening; 1977 isn't even in the same ballpark in that sense. Seriously, it can't be an accident that this train wreck kicks off with a song called "wake me when it's over," can it?
Used To Be
More embittered, uninspired end-of-our-acquaintance fare. Seriously, this is so embarrassing. Why didn't Nash just auction off these beats to whoever's out there trying to become the next J. Cole or whatever? But I've gotta say that I dig the semi-flamenco guitar touches that crop up here and on other parts of the album; they're intriguing, and could become a crucial element of Nash's sound whenever he finds his mojo again.
Sub-R.Kelly Groaner: "You used to strip for a nigga, but now you ain't got nothing but lip for a nigga."
Man! Those guitars, they're like jigsaw guitars or something, a deconstructed melody. Love 'em. But "A day with you is just another fuckin' day" is not an awesome or incisive R&B lyric; it's something you say to the person you don't love any longer in the heat of an argument. I kind of appreciated the insinuation that this song is happening in public, maybe in a restaurant or something, and that Nash feels the need to tell strangers to mind their damn business.
Ghetto feat. Big Sean
The screwed and chopped intro at the beginning where Nash or whoever is explaining that his "daughter's daughter is already rich" is easily the first moment on this record that's worth returning to. Contextually, this "Mr. Yeah"-referencing cut isn't out-and-out horrible in a production sense; it's kind of fun, even if Nash couldn't use it for a Def Comedy Jam routine or anything. Also, hey, Big Sean? Referring to yourself as "B.I.G." - ironically or not - is tantamount to sacrilege in hip-hop.
Given the existence of Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson vehicle The Wedding Crashers, this should be a lot kookier, looser, and just plain better than it actually is.
Rolex feat. Casha
If 1977 is gonna be remembered for anything, it'll be as the first recorded appearance of Casha, who's kind of like an XX-chromosome Drake but could be ferocious with the right producers in her corner. One potential problem: "Casha" sounds kind of like "Ke$ha."
Lamest Couplet Of The Mixtape, Not From Casha: "I feel like Master P, cuz my cards ain't got no limit."
Silly introducing Casha
If you're listening to this song right now, you're watching Casha steal Nash's mixtape from him. There's nothing quite like hazily soulful 60s/70s pop R&B to set the emotions rocking and reeling, is there? Nash doesn't even open his mouth here, thank God. Seriously, this is some Roberta Flack shit; Casha's singing is greatly superior to her rapping.
1977 (Miss You Still)
Coldplay! Animal Collective! The Lion King! Michael Jackson! Bono riding a unicorn on moebius-strip rainbow! I don't know what I'm saying. This is big, lush, world-beating/heart-stopping/Peter-Gabriel-shopping-for-ivory-in-Africa stuff that should've been shelved until Nash could find the proper sentiments to elevate it to, like, Kanye-level stratospherics.
The Mad Corny Award: Nash invoking Jay-Z's "Song Cry" right off the bat.
Wish You Were Mine
Given the blurting, chop-chop-chop of the synthesizers that form the base of the production here, maybe the title should have been "Wish You Were Holding An Extra Gram."
This Real Shit Nigga feat. Pharrell
This one appears in the track list on The-Dream's site, but is conspicuously absent once you've downloaded the album and performed the zip file extraction. My guess is that Nash yanked it at the last minute after realizing that it wasn't quite as dire as everything else being excreted here. But who knows?
Side Note: The Love, IV drops in December; that album's leaked tracks are kind of great in a "songwriting institute of technology" kind of way but I don't really care about them one way or the other.
Form of Flattery
Is Nash really proud of 1977? No; he can't be. This is pretty much a stunt to spite his record company, and it sounds it, as in Nash raided his vaults for D-sides then slapped them together and put them out for free. I mean, I'm embarrassed for him; this song in particular is so terrible and treacly that I can't force myself to sit through it again in order to pick it apart. Awful, and unforgivable.
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