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Album Review

The-Dream, 'Love vs. Money'

March 9, 2009
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R&B
The-Dream Love vs. Money
Radio Killa/Def Jam
ESSENTIAL "Put It Down"

Rarely does an artist take the kind of one-record creative leap The-Dream does here on his superb sophomore effort, "Love vs. Money." Unlike his spotty debut, this is a seamless, brilliantly produced affair featuring his unmatched contemporary pop technique and songwriting craftsmanship. He's still not the most elastic, expressive vocalist, but he is smart enough to create evocative, multilayered musical textures to buffet and bring out the best in his voice ("Right Side of My Brain"). The disc moves smoothly between bumping grooves ("Walkin' on the Moon," with Kanye West's nimble wryness) to balladry like the witty sexcapade "Put It Down" ("If they ask can I sing like Usher?/ Say no/ But I can make you sing like Mariah"). His signature repetition of phrases is all over the disc - he is the guy who put the "ella" in your umbrella - and it still doesn't feel like shtick yet. That's because there are so many other good things going on, including some terrific one-liners and hooks. On "Kelly's 12 Play," he does his musical forebear justice and that's not the only place he does right by sultry R&B. Is some of this formula? Sure. But right now it's worth bottling. (Out tomorrow)

KEN CAPOBIANCO

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