Good news, baby makers: The-Dream is back. Fuse got an exclusive first listen at the R&B hitmaker's upcoming fifth album, IV Play, at a listening session in New York Thursday night. And just to be careful, he told us the side effects up front: "Y'all are gonna wanna f-ck." Then he pressed play.
Last time we heard from The-Dream, it was 2012 and he released his fourth album, Terius Nash: 1977, for free on the Internet. Maybe he chose that route because he couldn't be bothered waiting for the record label to okay a release date—he had some stuff to get off his chest.
After photos surfaced of the singer on vacation with his assistant, The-Dream was dealing with the backlash of a very public divorce from then wife Christina Milian. He was angry. Things were dark. Terius Nash was far from the sensual, lovemaking album fans were used to from the singer.
But a good year of casual sex is always the remedy for a broken heart. When he wasn't busy writing and producing on projects for other artists (Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kanye West) during the past two and a half years, The-Dream told the assembled crowd, he was writing and recording IV Play, taking it through various states of transformation. The (almost) final outcome—we heard 10 tracks and not all of them were final edits—sees The-Dream back to his old self. He's left the past in the past and he's ready to get back to what he loves doing: soundtracking your next hookup.
But not some fumbling, teenage hookup. IV Play is for the grown and sexy. This time around, it's about maturity. During the Q&A, The-Dream reflected on old R&B "back in the day" when guys were "45 singing about love." "We got these kids out here at 17 singing about this stuff now," said the singer. "The issues you have at 17 are not the same issues you have at 35." He's right—as much as the album is about sex, it's also about love.
1.) "IV Play" The-Dream is horny. Really f-cking horny. He opens the album with one of his classic slow, bass-heavy sex jams and cuts right to the chase: "I don't give a f-ck about the foreplay/I'm talking straight sex/stop f-cking around." You heard the man.
2.) "Five (High)" A breathy Beyonce guests on this sensual, icy ode to being high and having sex. At the same time? Most likely. (We really didn't know B got down like that.) "I got the fuego/Inferno," she taunts repeatedly. The-Dream stokes her fire.
3.) "Where Have You Been" Bey's BFF Kelly Rowland lends her vocals for this piano-driven almost-breakup anthem. Where does your BF/GF go when they storm out of the apartment after a fight? The-Dream and Rowland tell their sides of the story but then end up back inside where they make up with—what else—some lovemaking. "Where have you been/But I'm glad you're here now/Hold me right now," sings The-Dream.
4.) "Too Early in the Morning" The-Dream told us this bass-centric soul/blues throwback is inspired by those nights when your lady comes home at 3:30 in the morning and wants to "talk about some bullsh-t." So you talk and then you end up in a huge fight, only to end up making up when it's all over. That's a solid two-hour appointment, and The-Dream doesn't have time for that. "It's too early in the morning/To break up and make out."
5.) "Michael" The most Michael Jackson-influenced-but-not-about-Michael Jackson song you'll ever hear. Despite the blatant "Billie Jean" and "Dirty Diana" references, the sweet, piano-rich track is actually an anti-love song. Who's Michael? The other guy The-Dream's girl is cheating on him with. "Smells like Michael, don't it?" she asks. TMI factor: one million.
6.) "Self-Conscious" The-Dream is always thinking about your feelings, ladies. The cool, super synthy love song is all about helping you forget those dimples you hate (wherever they may be) and just letting your man make you feel good. "You don't have to be self-conscious/I got you, boo," croons the singer.
7.) "High Art" This trap-inspired jam is your subwoofer's new favorite song for two reasons: it's bass-heavy (like, semi-truck heavy) and this is a car jam if there ever was one. There's no better place to yell "I make love to my girl/I get high with my n-ggas" than out of your car window. Jay-Z's slated to appear on the final edit, but we heard an earlier Jigga-less version of the song.
8.) "Divine" That feeling when you're a huge superstar and you're on top of the world and nothing can stop you? The-Dream captured it in a cinematic, orchestral track that makes you think you can also be a huge superstar with Kanye West's phone number in your contacts list. The one and only Mary J. Blige will appear on the final version of the song, taking it even higher, we're sure.
9.) "Equestrian" If we told you The-Dream wrote a song titled "Equestrian," any idea on what it's about? Riding something? Correct. It sounds like a B-side from The Weeknd's House of Balloons in that you'll probably be pregnant after a couple of listens. TMI factor: slightly less than one million.
10.) "Y'all" Despite the many (many) hours of love The-Dream made while putting this album together (for research purposes, we're sure), he needed one track to speak his peace about the other stuff going on in his life. Mainly, the stuff that people don't see. The vocalist opens the track with spoken word over a gospel-inflected organ, singing, "If this ain't the realest thing I ever wrote, then I hope God makes me choke." If the track remains the last song on the album, it's the perfect last confession to an album full of sins. The-Dream might crush a lot, and he's been through ups and downs, but he's still a father and a loyal friend.
Either out of choice or necessity, The-Dream didn't tell the crowd if what we heard was the album's final running order. Though having not played "Roc", "Dope Chick" or the official first single "Slow it Down", (presumably since they've already been released) or select finished tracks, we suspect the singer still has some tweaking to do to make his end-of-May deadline. Or maybe some more love to make.
IV Play is out May 28 on Def Jam.