On his third album, Something Else
(released in the U.S. on Sept. 30, 2008), Blue-Eyed Soul singer Robin Thicke
continues his evolution as a person and an artist. The album, which is the follow-up to his 2006 breakthrough The Evolution of Robin Thicke
, is a little more mature, a little more sexy and a little more polished than his first two albums. The new album's also essentially a tribute to '70s Soul music, particularly that of the late, great Marvin Gaye. The album isn't entirely retro though; it somehow manages to expertly - and easily - walk the fine line between classic and modern-day Soul music.
If you've ever wondered how Robin Thicke
, a white male who was born the child of two famous and wealthy entertainers (vocalist Gloria Loring and Canadian actor Alan Thicke) wound up with so much overflowing soul, a large part of the answer is within the songs on his third album, Something Else
. Thicke is clearly a man who grew up listening to - and loving - the music of '70s Soul artists like Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder and especially Marvin Gaye. Some songs seem like outright tributes to the dearly departed Mr. Gaye, including the sultry opening track, "You're My Baby," on which he sweetly coos in a falsetto almost identical to Marvin's, and the super-sensual "Loverman," an amazing track on which the ghosts of Marvin are so abundant, you can almost hear them singing background.
The most obvious reference to Marvin, however, is on maybe the album's best song, "Dreamworld," a beautifully melancholy track in which Robin sings about what his version of utopia would be like: "I would tell (Vincent) van Gogh that he was loved, there's no need to cry/I would say to Marvin Gaye that your father didn't want you to die/There would be no black and white, the world would just treat my wife right/We could walk down in Mississippi and no one would look at us twice." The latter line refers to his spouse (the actress Paula Patton, who's African American) and the problems that they've had encountering racism in the South.
Hope & Love
Image © Interscope Records.
Another sort-of homage to the '70s is the album's string instrument-driven first single, "Magic,"
which is a hopeful, sunny track about the power of love. As singles go, it's more upbeat and energetic than "Lost Without You," which was the big hit ballad from Thicke's last album, but in many ways, its just as good, if not better. Unfortunately, the "Magic" remix
, which features Thicke along with Mary J. Blige," was left off the final version of the album.
But not the entire album is an exercise in reaching back to the past. There's other material that's rooted in the modern day, such as the album's one big "message" song, "Tie My Hands," an ode to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina featuring rapper - and New Orleans native - Lil' Wayne. Unlike most of the dozens of other Katrina songs that have cropped up since the hurricane, this one's not overtly angry, though it does carry a weariness within it, the same sort of weariness that New Orleans residents who survived the storm probably feel on a daily basis now. The song begins with some words of wisdom from Mr. Thicke: "The sky is falling and the only thing that can save us now is sensitivity and compassion." And even the frequently negative Wayne has some very clear words of hope and encouragement on his second verse: "And if you come from under that water then there's fresh air/Just breathe, baby, breathe, God's got a blessing to spare/Yes, I know the process is so much stress, but it's the progress that feels the best."