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Terius Nash

1977

Rating: 2.3/5.0

Label: Self-Released

The-Dream is a one-man R&B powerhouse. Along with a reputation for putting together consistent albums, he’s written some of the genre’s most beloved hits of the past five years. Perhaps best known for penning Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” The-Dream’s had a particular knack writing for female artists and tapping into a relatable common ground amongst the fairer sex’s listeners. While he’s three albums into a very successful career (with a fourth on the way), his latest release is a departure to the point where he’s not even using his adopted moniker. Instead, The-Dream is billing himself under his birth name, Terius Nash, for an album named after the year he was born. It’s a very intimate presentation for a very personal release. For those long-awaiting hearing an entire Hollywood divorce in under 54 minutes, The-Dream brings you 1977.

The road to 1977 is a twisted one, marred with the confusion and heartbreak that celebrity break-ups thrive on. Since his last album, The-Dream has suffered through a very public divorce from Christina Milian (of “AM to PM” fame). While he’s been somewhat vague about how much of 1977 is about her, it’s hard not to speculate that every single track on here chronicles a man unraveled by a brutal split as he attempts to pull himself together. Also worthy of speculation is the circumstances of how it’s being released. Nash has noted how this project is coming out much to his label Def Jam’s chagrin, along with specifically billing it as an “internet album.” This classification could be for legal reasons, an attempt to generate the same buzz that benefited labelmate Frank Ocean’s Nostalgia/Ultra album earlier this year or perhaps an excuse for the album’s haphazard shortcomings. Regardless, 1977 seems to be here solely by the grace of Game and it really is quite the different listening experience.

With such a volatile subject matter, 1977 is both intriguing and somewhat disturbing. For someone whose track record paints him as a writer with a flare for calculated nuances, Nash here is a drunk driver behind the wheel of a runaway bulldozer. It’s messy, sloppy, and has the energy and appeal of a heated in-the-moment argument. It’s a polarizing release, and if you like your R&B fueled by high profile self pity, it could be your album of the year. It is, to a degree, fascinating getting the equivalent of a tell-all book in album form from someone who has spent the better part of the past few years in hearsay soundbites on gossip sites. Far more interesting is how you really feel like you’re getting a broken man going through the stages of relationship grief before your very ears.

It’s the few relatable aspects where 1977 excels. Vocals and lyrics aside, the album really does sound like the beats are scoring a real life break-up. From the initial shock (“Wake Me When It’s Over”) to the desperation (“Wedding Crasher”) to the anger (the dreadful “This Shit Real Ni**a” featuring Pharrell) to the acceptance (“Form of Flattery”), it’s all here. Unfortunately, Nash’s performance doesn’t match up to such a perfect soundscape. While it is commendable that he’s pulling no punches and putting his emotions on full display, this vulnerability packed into such a rushed under-the-table project seems somewhat forced at best and contrived and exploitive at worst. The easy comparison is with Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak as both were the first time an accomplished artist was given complete control on a project and opted to write the entire work themselves, hoping raw emotion would overcome some downright embarrassing lyrics. While you do spend half the album feeling for Nash, the other half he comes off overly bitter, making it hard to take his side. Couple the latter bad moments with lyrics that rhyme “devil” with “shovel” and “drunk song” with “anthem,” and you have an album-length “heat of the moment” outburst. It’s interesting, but by no means essential.

by Chaz Kangas

Key Tracks: Long Gone, Ghetto f/ Big Sean, 1977 (Miss You Still)

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