It takes an awful lot of chutzpah to name your third album Love King, especially when your music is deeply rooted in the legacies of R&B kings like Prince, Michael Jackson, and R. Kelly (The-Dream’s last album even featured a tribute song called “Kelly’s 12 Play.”) But cockiness is a prerequisite for an R&B singer, and on Love King, writer-producer-songwriter The-Dream has the talent to back up his over-the-top swagger. The-Dream’s sound remains rooted in the synthesizer-heavy R&B of mid-’80s Prince, while his over-the-top raunchiness is indebted to Kelly’s cartoon sexuality. The difference is that The-Dream seems to understand the ridiculousness of songs with names like “Sex Intelligent,” “Panties To The Side,” and “Make-Up Bag,” which recommends the gift of expensive purses as the perfect way to get a girlfriend to forgive serial infidelity. Like Kelly, The-Dream is funny, but he’s intentionally amusing; there’s a winking quality to his horndog antics that never veers into outright irony. Love King is dreamy baby-making music monomaniacally obsessed with sex, but love, or at least lust, turns to hate on the infectious kiss-offs “Abyss” and the album-closing “Florida University.” (The chorus reduces the title to its initials.) Though The-Dream has established his own strong identity, Love King might just be the best Purple Rain follow-up Prince never made.
More from The A.V. Club