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There aren't too many R&B artists these days with The-Dream's cred or his hitting streak. The dude has penned two indisputable classics over the past five years — Rihanna's "Umbrella" and Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" — and has recorded some of the freakiest, hookiest, and all-around best soul albums of the new millennium. His new one, Love IV MMXII, is due sometime this spring. It follows 1977, the free mixtape he released last year under his birth name, Terius Nash. That album was a bit of a stylistic departure from his usual pop-kissed bedroom jams, focusing instead on the breakup of his marriage. It's sorta like Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear without all the bitchiness. The first single from Love IV MMXII, "Roc," finds The-Dream back in loverman mode, sweet talking some shortie into having sex with him. Pretty much business as usual. His three-week Kill the Lights Tour of smaller venues comes to House of Blues this week. See it with someone who looks good naked. — Gallucci
8 p.m. Wednesday, March 21. House of Blues. Tickets: $22.50-$40; call 216-523-2583 or visit houseofblues.com.
MC, poet, and actor Saul Williams treads new territory with each of his albums, never settling in one place for too long. He launched his recording career with the 2001 rap-electro hybrid Amethyst Rock Star, which sported enough wordy pontificating to generate underground buzz. (Rick Rubin's production certainly didn't hurt things.) Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha and System of a Down's Serj Tankian showed up on Williams' next album, a self-titled record from 2004 that explored America's troubled psyche. His third album, 2007's The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust!, featured production by Trent Reznor, who helped Williams consolidate all of the freewheeling influences that floated around his previous records. His latest LP, last year's Volcanic Sun, begins with a dense meditation on mortality and life's restrictions before Williams falls into more pop-centric melodies. It's all part of his continued effort to frame his words in new sounds. — Dave Cantor
With CX Kidtronik. 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 21. Grog Shop. Tickets: $15; call 216-321-5588 or go to grogshop.gs.
The Black Keys
Dan Auerbach doesn't really have a whole lot to say. Like the old bluesmen he admires so much, the Black Keys singer and guitarist mostly writes songs about how some girl did him or his drummer bandmate Patrick Carney wrong. Or about how they're looking for a girl who will undoubtedly do them wrong sometime in the near future. The theme goes all the way back to when they were a scrappy duo making records in their makeshift Akron studio, and it continues all the way through to their latest release, El Camino, which led to a high-profile spot on Saturday Night Live and a sellout of Madison Square Garden in 15 minutes. What's attracted so many people to the Keys over the past few years, not so surprisingly, is the same thing that's attracted white music fans to all those classic bluesmen: a primal sense of emotional and physical release that comes with the pounding thump of drums and the electric surge of a six-string guitar. It's not too deep, but at a time when mainstream rock music's biggest players come off like happy hour with the bros, it counts for something. Two additional musicians will help expand that primal sound onstage when the Keys play the Q this week. — Michael Gallucci
With Arctic Monkeys. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 20. Quicken Loans Arena. Tickets: $34.50-$59.50; call 888-894-9424 or visit theqarena.com.
— Michael Gallucci
With Nü Sensae and Outer Space. 8:30 p.m. Sunday, March 11. Beachland Tavern. Tickets: $10; call 216-383-1124 or visit beachlandballroom.com.