I remember fondly the time several years ago I first heard Robin Thicke. Forget that he is the son of Alan Thicke, the dad on Growing Pains, former host of Thicke Of The Night. No, don’t forget that, because pops created the theme songs for television shows “The Facts Of Life”, “Diff’rent Strokes”, “Wheel Of Fortune”, and “The Joker’s Wild” so many years ago. Robin Thicke comes by his talent rather naturally, then, and lends creedence to his pedigree where many children of stars are forced into the spotlight lacking any real talent. In 2002, like many listeners, I caught my first earful of Robin Thicke hearing his song “When I Get You Alone” on a Sprite commercial. Immediately taken with the singer, I searched everywhere trying to find out who he was. I think I even called up the Coca-Cola Bottling Company to ask them. A commercial failure, A Beautiful World, the album from which that track came, was nonetheless an ushering in of a blue-eyed soul that singers like Taylor Hicks can only make aspirations towards.
The Evolution of Robin Thicke is more than a series of songs produced by The Neptunes, more than a series of collaborations with names like Pharrell, Faith Evans and Lil’ Wayne. It’s a celebration of the kind of soul music that I grew up loving, much like Mr. Thicke and Mr. Williams themselves. You’ve got a fair chunk of Marvin Gaye, Donnie Hathaway, Keith Sweat, Prince, and Stevie Wonder influence to sort through on the album. Though there are a couple of real stinkers, “Wanna Love U Girl” (which is the single, God knows why) and the monotony of “Teach U A Lesson”, the majority of the album is warm and inviting. The anthemic “Shooter (featuring Li” Wayne)” is five minutes of stunning funk-on-wax. The Gaye-influence “Got 2 Be Down (featuring Faith Evans)” and the hilarious and haunting R&B anthem “Cocaine” (no, babys, this is *NOT* a remake of the J.J. Cale tune of the same name) are so powerful that it makes the album worth having for those three tracks alone. The Latin-tinged “Everything I Can’t Have” is an unexpected treat 1/4 of the way through the album, sending soulful strains over salsa. When Mr. Thicke sings, “I wanna be rich/never work at all/sleep all day/I wanna see it all/I want everything I can’t have”, and I connect.
I would love for the album to be more fully realized in one direction or another, more pop or more soul. Unlike contemporary Jamie Lidell’s magnificent album Multiply, TEORT veers in different directions, seeking out the attentions of two musical genres instead of focusing on the one that matters the most. I like Robin Thicke when he’s Marvin Gaye; when he’s Babyface, I tune out. Check out this track, “Got 2 Be Down (featuring Faith Evans)” and I think you will agree: this is an evolution worth watching unfold.
Listen to Robin Thicke featuring Faith Evans – Got 2 Be Down
You can purchase The Evolution of Robin Thicke from Amazon by clicking here