Review ·

When newcomer Casha moans that she’s been “to hell and back” halfway through “Rolex,” it’s probably just a coincidence that those are the exact same words that Christina Milian used to describe her brief marriage to Terius Nash, better known to the world as The-Dream. After all, it’s not Casha—who pops up twice on 1977, Nash’s new internet-released free album—who went through the couple’s nasty split last year. The divorce is The-Dream’s new cross to bear and burden to get off his chest, and he spends most of 1977 working through his new demons.

Released under his birth name Terius Nash, 1977 abandons the triumphant introductions of his three previous albums, and instead finds Nash sounding tremendously bummed. On opener “Wake Me When It’s Over,” he thankfully cuts the somber mood with gems like “I love the way you smell / but you’re always on some bullshit,” but for the majority of the track Nash, not The-Dream, is lamenting his relationship that went so wrong. Things don’t get much lighter from there, as Nash gets quietly angry over some hushed guitar and keys on “Used to Be,” sounding like he’s ready to do some damage. “Can I be motherfucking honest?” seems like the mantra repeating in his head over the often funny, and just as often—hurtful--three-song arc that begins the album, culminating with the skittering “Long Gone."

Starting an album with three consecutive downers doesn't seem like a very The-Dream thing to do—and probably a good reason the record is credited the man behind the persona. Of course, such a lively lothario can't be held down for the entire 11-song set, and the tremendously fun "Ghetto" finds the jovial cocksmith of the Love trilogy popping up to considerably lighten the proceedings. Lines like "She's all up on me singing my songs/ and it feels like I'm fucking my fans," ooze out over a lush, languorous synth in touch with the excellent "Put It Down" from 2009's Love VS. Money, with Big Sean cajoling a lot of fun out of a 16-bar guest verse. A surprisingly tender outro leads into a rare, genuinely sweet moment for The-Dream canon with "Wedding Crasher," which trades heavy on sentimentality and strings without edging into schmaltzy "February Love" territory.

The rest of 1977 is filled out with headscratchers (the sweet yet forgettable Casha showcase "Silly"), missed opportunities (the truly entertaining "This Shit Real Nigga" blown up in the second half by Pharrell's iffy verse and a confusing Auto-Tune/"Rock Out" last minute) and heartbreakers, like the utterly solemn "1977 (Miss You Still)." If there was one recurring complaint about The-Dream's consistent Love Trilogy, it's that he bordered dangerously close to making the same (albeit great) album three times in a row. With 1977, Nash has thrown a curveball into his catalog and shown that he is perfectly capable of spending almost an entire album at the after-party, alone with his troubles.

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