On the day after nominations for the 2007 Grammy Awards were announced, Terius "The Dream" Nash is cautiously ecstatic. He's on the short list for Song of the Year, thanks to co-writing Rihanna's international hit "Umbrella." "I appreciate the nomination, but it won't be as satisfying as winning," he says.
Ever since Rihanna's "Umbrella" blessed the Dream with next-to-blow status, the 30-year-old has peddled the same story to glossy magazines across the land: He wrote the lyrics and the melody in a mere 15 minutes. Today, he claims the same thing. "Actually, it was 12 minutes," he says. "It was very easy to write. All of my songs never take that long to write."
The art of songwriting is a difficult discipline, however, particularly when it comes to the ultracompetitive world of urban pop. You could compare a successful songwriter to a quarterback, who might train several years to throw a perfect spiral in a matter of seconds. The Dream joined his first band in grade school, and by 2003, he landed his first major credit on B2K's "Everything." He has written tracks for Britney Spears and Nivea (who is his wife), but it wasn't until this year that he broke out, with "Umbrella" and J. Holiday's "Bed."
Armed with a deal from Island Def Jam, the Dream is releasing his debut album, Love Hate. With its "ella, ella, ella" chorus, "Umbrella" already announced the Dream's attempt to mark each hit with a unique vocal element. Several Love Hate songs bear similar traces, and each blends into the other like a DJ set. With "Fast Car," he swings like Prince circa "Little Red Corvette." On the lead single "Shawty Is da Shit," he sings an "oooh-wah," and calls himself a "radio killa-killa-killa."
Love Hate is one of the year's better R&B albums, and announces the Dream's intention to step out of the studio and claim the spotlight. "I tried to go as far as my creativity can take me without going too far left," he says. "No one can really have hits if they don't follow the guideline of a song structure."