Dvsn and Ty Dolla $ign could inject grace, pain, or meaning into the “Kars4Kids” jingle. Individually, the three are a force in contemporary R&B, sculpting gooey ballads and tingling hits about doomed relationships and humid, haunting nights from their respective silos. Dvsn—the union of singer Daniel Daley and producer Nineteen85—have made elegant, expansive albums about sex and security on Drake’s label OVO; Ty Dolla $ign, for his part, has made his presence known everywhere, slathering gravelly vocals on pop songs and rap tracks and his latest triumphant solo album. Together, the trio forms a steamy supergroup. But the experience of listening to their collaborative debut becomes less about basking in the glimmering harmonies and more about wondering why such an obviously winning combination falls short.
Ty and Dvsn should be natural partners on all things carnal. Ty’s last joint album, a buoyant, deeply horny record with Jeremih, kept a fluorescent focus on the playfulness of hooking up, while Dvsn’s albums can feel like meditations for the bedroom. The latter duo’s ability to treat sex as both a drama and a language has shone in their previous work. On Cheers to the Best Memories, its absence is glaring. Instead of splitting the difference on the record, they go for the clumsy and obvious. “Sexing” gets crooned as a verb. Ty rhymes “ass and breast” with “more than sex;” later, he fumbles at a quarantine reference in his incessant quest to get laid: “We’ve been inside for too long/For me to be outside of you,” he hums. These songs drift through flirtations, sometimes with a captivating silkiness. You can get lost in the layered coos about private rooms and bedspreads until a particularly cringe-inducing lyric comes along.
The lazy writing often defaults to misogyny. “God made bad bitches rude,” Ty grumbles on his designated interlude, complaining about an ex’s “pussy power.” “Can’t Tell” has some of the record’s most fun production, with shimmering synths and a catchy YG verse, but the chorus’s menacing line—“Hope that you’re not a tease”—pierces the song’s sheen. The group casually embeds entitlement into their depictions of seduction: “I came all this way/Now it’s time for you to show me what it do-ooh-oooh-ooh,” Ty warbles on “Outside.”
There are moments where the album does sink into reverie, where Nineteen85’s production becomes sparse and airy and thrumming, and the trio’s voices braid into a kind of elegy. “Don’t Say a Word” unspools over steady, plumbing bass as Daley sings about navigating a secret romance. Ty’s croaking vibrato is in full force here. “Don’t compare me to your ex,” he sings with a palpable sting. “I deserve way more respect.” The track swells into an interlude, layers of women’s background vocals building into a Greek chorus: “Can you take it?” Ty and Daley ask over and over, sometimes in gleaming harmonies and sometimes in whips and whimpers of falsetto. The double entendre is clear: the song offers a literal sexual play-by-play, but there are pleas for clarity and connection seeped into all the sweat. On “Fight Club,” their harmonies swirl past sputters of trumpets as they admit their lover is right, and that needing can be a stronger urge than arguing.
Still, too many of the choices here are confusing, glaring commercial bait, or both. “Somebody That You Don’t Know” is a radio play that sounds jarring and out of place with the rest of the album’s tracklist, with smeared guitars, a vaguely Latin-inspired beat, and a banal storyline about lusting after an anonymous woman. Nineteen85 crafted Dvsn’s earlier records with intricate, intimate minimalism; he trades that in for campy handclaps that underpin “Wedding Cake” and overpowering, glitchy AutoTune on “Memories,” a track Drake’s longtime collaborator 40 also produced. The album seems to stumble into lovely stretches, coasting on the sheer beauty of the singers’ voices. “Better Yet,” Dvsn’s interlude, surges, and searches. Nineteen85 dribbles a smeared synth here, a pulsing drum pattern there. There is no grand message or takeaway, just obvious, aching craft. You’re left wishing that could be enough.
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