Months after co-writing Rihanna‘s 2007 smash “Umbrella,” Terius “The-Dream” Nash released Love/Hate, an album of insistent R&B songs about fast cars and women with winking hooks like “Show me the green light.” Since 2010’s Love King, however, the influential singer-songwriter has struggled to adjust to a new radio landscape where R&B stars often need electronic beats to cross over.
Crown Jewel, his sixth LP (and first off Def Jam), is a solid album that won’t play much beyond his cult, touting his most conventional ballads to date. “Fruition” settles into a keyboard groove that begs for an El DeBarge to soar over, and “Cedes Benz” limps back to the dealership for inspiration. But Nash and co-producer Tricky Stewart are still masters at pairing throwaway catchphrases (“That’s My Shit,” “Throw It Back”) with dinky synths and fun ad-libs. The best is ” ’90s Love,” six minutes of luxe cooing that builds R&B lovermen past and present a castle in the sky. Or is it a retirement community?
This story originally appeared in the July 25 issue of Billboard.