For most R&B singers, a line like "Let's make out on the phone first" would be hyperbolic overkill. But most R&B singers aren't The-Dream. Fans of the Atlanta-based singer, songwriter, and producer — who doesn't deny the debts he owes to Prince and R. Kelly — have come to expect this sort of ludicrously provocative boudoir chatter, which comes clothed in angelic flotillas of finger snaps, handclaps, cooing synths, and cotton-candy strings. Love King eschews predecessor Love vs. Money's existential romantic quandries, reveling instead in the subtler pleasures of texture, repetition, and tonality: the hypnotic feeling the phrase "makeup bag" acquires when endlessly repeated; how the epic "February Love" sidles seamlessly from courtly, tickled-ivory pomp to adlibbed strewn banger; The-Dream's gooey Marvin Gaye falsetto glazing "Turnt Out." Love King, an album for the senses, stumbles when The-Dream stoops to score-settling ("Abyss," "Florida University"). But by that time, he insists he's "got so much more to say." That may be true in a musical sense, but he's lying lyrically. — Ray Cummings
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