Grammy Award-winner, Terius, “The-Dream” Nash is a reminder that songwriters can be honored as wings on the backs of songbirds.

Beyond his own work, he is acclaimed for writing credits on nostalgic hits from the mid-2000s like Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” and Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body.” In 2010, Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” a song whose production his hand was in, grabbed a billion views on Youtube. He also holds writing credits for Beyoncé’s “1+1” alongside Tricky Stewart, and his flair is woven into the lining of other monumental records.

The-Dream debuted in 2007 with “Love/Hate,” which was a testament to how he effortlessly straddled the line between R&B’s emotions and rap’s brazen confidence. Even for a 12-year-old boy around this time, he could make crushes feel less like women they desired to appease and more like those they confidently believed were enthralled by their charm.

His album stood alongside artists like Neyo, Musiq Soulchild, and Mario– all who contributed to the soundtrack of the R&B experience in the mid-2000s. His soulful swaggering made hits like “I Luv Your Girl,” “Shawty Is Da Sh*,” and “Falsetto” memorable and irreplaceable stitching within the cloth of his era of Soul music. Artists evade boxes and function freely in nuance, although some categorize art to understand it. He moved at his own creative pace by traversing the line separating songwriter and singer–novelist and narrator. Although showmanship is expressed differently through a record being written or performed, they can be considered different molds of the same-sized artistry. Likewise, The-Dream could avoid the straight-laced posture of love music while remaining true to its gentlemanly temperament. “Love vs. Money” was studded with momentous hits as well, handing esteem to “Rockin’ That Sh**” and “My Love.” 

In Florida, his voice was significant in the spirit of the times with a collaboration on Rick Ross’s “All I Really Want” in 2009, while Fast Car’s high-spirited production speedily contributed to Miami’s jook scene. His pen also composed Beyoncé’s glam-woven “Love on Top” in 2011. He tapped his music with convincing suave and comfort, making his sex escapades and romance ballads believable. He wore the essence of an artist pivotal on a record and wielded the pen to propel it forward. His 2020 project, “SXTP4,” was consistent with the sensual nature of his past work.

Songwriters bear the gift of familiarizing themselves with an artist’s creative archive and referencing it to extract new stories. Knowing what to say is sourced through hearing or reading what’s already been said. The-Dream’s proven ability to write songs is comparable to painters whose illustrations are just an addition to the bigger picture without attempting to repaint the entire portrait. Puzzle pieces do better and are most effective when they understand their placement. As a songsmith, he stood alongside cultural titans in their industry conquests, such as Ciara and Britney Spears, in addition to those already mentioned. Songwriters don’t get their flowers enough, and he’s due roses for his success as a sun rather than one who lingers in the shadows of the giants.

As recently as this year, he is heavily credited with writing on Beyoncé’s Renaissance, arguably the most culturally paramount project of the last five years. Alongside these assists are his work with Pusha T’s “Rock N Roll” and Brent Faiyaz’s “Bad Luck” and “Mercedes.” The-Dream hasn’t rested, given his commitment to the music and pen. His trajectory also reflects how exceptional songwriting might guarantee longevity even though the overwhelming light of stardom doesn’t accompany it. He imprinted his voice and music on a pivotal era of R&B.

There’s been controversy regarding the trajectory of R&B music. Nielsen Soundscan’s year-end music industry report confirmed that R&B/hip-hop was the most popular genres of music in America just at the onset of 2018. BBC News reported that Adele and The Weeknd had the world’s best-selling records of 2021 with “30” and “Save Your Tears.” The shift from the era of The-Dream and Neyo, or a younger Chris Brown, is unmistakable. Early death isn’t the culprit in the loss of R&B superstars. Some ripen fast and are absorbed by the years ahead of them. But many of us love seeing our favorite artists grow old, knowing that with this age comes a suave and spirited savvy to, strangely, live up to records they made years ago. At the onset of the streaming era, artists met the task of translating their fanfare to computerized algorithms– especially for those to whom streaming analytics mirrors how well an artist does. Virality was the string attaching them to prospective success. But only some records and artists were able to survive the rupture.

The songs of well-aging artists have to follow suit, showing why the art and the artist are in stride with one another. The-Dream revealed the balance of being smooth with words and slick with his pen— and having a big brain when producing. Even when singers grow older, they remind fans of their youth in other ranges of their artistry. Accepting the nearing of time looks like grooming grey hairs rather than cutting them off. His persistence in beings hands-on subtly helped usher new eras into the picture– songwriting and storytelling on records that toned our era. He wore singer and writer, showing an unheeded conflation of the two. R&B artists currently face the task of maintaining the integrity of soul music in an era where rappers sing to distinguish themselves from their peers. A burden lies in maintaining the bar’s height and fostering the sonic exclusivity of a genre congenitally black and tender. If failed, outsiders will, without a challenge, mimic a sound it took more than 50 years to develop.

Somewhere within the rift between 2 ages, artists took a new posture when approaching love music– they cuddled philandering or relational ambiguity and mystique. Current expressions reference the past in rhythm and remain within the groove. Still, allegiance to contemporary sounds and aesthetics makes it incapable of functioning in complexity— composing sounds exuding more hopelessness, less romance, and a fear of losing emotional sovereignty. The-Dream’s ability to comfortably wear this fluidity helped his art express elements of two genres– R&B and Rap. He’s also a reminder that great and timeless artists inevitably fly within the rift– they always survive the schism and remain relevant. And their names will usually be associated with the last hottest thing.

In retrospect, he made love and affection a space to find solace when R&B was routinely mawkish, expressing a vulnerability or proneness to being heartbroken that love doesn’t always ask us to subject ourselves. The confidence emanating from his earlier projects contributed to sounds that fused the sentimentality of soul music and the hubris of hip-hop. The-Dream has walked well in stride with his name because that’s what he’s lived given his success in blanketing the culture with art and skill through his voice and pen. The presence of today is just yesterday’s vision, and this is an ode to The Dream we all remember.

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