The world of R&B was aching for some good music. Not only has the genre been mired with half-baked ideas and overrated albums but the quality has been sub-par for quite some time now. Through it all, there has been a winning team defying the odds with countless hits of great music. Enter The-Dream, Terius Youngdell Nash, and super-producer, Christopher “Tricky” Stewart. The tandem have been working together to make some of the best music the genre has to offer. Now, with Love vs. Money, Nash has been able to not only add a worthy addition but if this isn’t the best album the genre has seen and heard in the past year, I don’t know what is.
As with his previous album, 2007’s Love/Hate, Nash enlisted Stewart to executive produce the entire thing and his production steadies the middle section of the album. As Nash put it, this album was going to be “meatier” and he was just “going to give us more and more, each time.” Beginning with “Sweat it Out,” Stewart’s main focus is to allow Nash to flourish as the soulful singer he is. When your father raised you on Sam Cooke and Al Green, it’s only natural that your voice is going to be inspired and blissfully sweet. The song strides with subtle music that although understated, aims to the sky with intelligent musicality and the realness of love. The ending section finds Nash belting out the vocals with an effervescent amount of emotion and solidarity; the ensuing harmonious connection is exceptional.
Shades of blue paint the album with crisp snares and low rumbles of bass and all the while, Nash shines as a true MC. The album’s best song happens to be one of the few that Stewart didn’t produce with “Walkin’ on the Moon.” Bubbly, bouncy, ballsy, it contains one of the catchiest hooks of the year. There’s just enough pizzazz and flash-with 80s-styled synths and music that is obviously inspired by Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)”-to entertain all kinds of music fans. The topper is Nash finding his romantic side as he sings, “I’ll pull down a cloud for you, I’ll circle the stars and bring you one back, I’ll walk through the sun for you.”
Nash is already behind many of the decade’s greatest hits (conspiring with Stewart to co-write Rihanna’s smash, “Umbrella”) but his skill at songwriting is remarkably impressive. Much of the music flows in and out in a manner that is brilliant. The themes are cohesive, yes, but the fact that the music is as tight and close-knit as it is, is dazzling. The Stewart-produced “Fancy” is the album’s longest song and it’s only supported by a bass line that changes with every measure, everything else is all Nash and his vocal musings. What could be a disastrous fall is a huge payoff that showcases just how well the duo gel together. With only twenty seconds left, loud, pounding drums show up and it all makes sense because the built up is going towards the next song, “Right Side of My Brain.” The two songs tag team to make up the best section of the album and it’s only with repeated listens that it hits you, that section is a mini-suite and at just over ten minutes, its genius.
There are slices of spicy, bumping pop, like the Mariah Carey-featured, “My Love,” all-encompassing, confidence, laid-back jams like “Mr. Yeah,” and another mini-suite of complexity with “Love vs. Money” and “Love vs. Money, Pt. 2” and they all work together within the frame of the album. Nash is able to sing in an honest manner; these aren’t the most impressive use of metaphors but they aren’t supposed to be. The lyrics appeal to all audiences because they are identifiable and even when Nash is singing about how he is “all up on you like a white tee on a thug,” you can’t help but smile.
One thing is for sure, Nash has a bright future ahead of him. With a strong debut already behind him, he has passed the dreaded sophomore album with flying colors. These are immediately affecting songs, complete with stories of love, money getting in the way, bliss, inspiration and affection in between. And fused with catchy music, talent-filled production, honest songwriting and some of the best beats in the industry, Love vs. Money wins on all levels.