First Impressions: It's A Love Thang For Robin Thicke
Monday, December 5, 2011
R&B music has been in the last few years well---excuse my French---rhythm n' bullshit. Hollow, lazy, and soulless to points where even the veterans of the genre have sort of fallen into Kidz Bop Hell. The excuse is to say, "it's experimental!!" or it's the "genre evolving for the 21st Century!!"---naw, it's just that pure raw honesty and love has been drained for the all-mighty "let's see what we can sell" jag and the latter is winning. Sure there's a digestible beat in the R&B tunes of today and not all of it is horrid, but the lovey-dovey-making-whoopie type of abandon is something that gets lost in all those strident club beats. It's a sugar rush, gone within minutes of hyper-activity, and maybe I'm just a Shady Pines Retirement Home ready-resident-of-R&B who needs to let go of the 90's, but it was disheartening to see the genre, a genre I love, take a real weak turn in these last years. Not to discount the artists who have consistently kept the soul, rhythm, and the affection in mind and kept it going in the mainstream (see Adele, Cee-Lo, Jill Scott), it's just that few have achieved to keep it "sexy and simple".
Then there is Robin Thicke. He's always been consistent, well--erm-- except for that little speed bump of Sex Therapy from 2009, but for the most part he has always been in-tune with reviving Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Donnie Hathaway and all 'em, without just literally covering every single track they treaded or sounded like he's doing Karaoke over Motown backing music. He has always had his own flavor, his own approach and when you sound as deliciously seducing as he does, you can't really find fault. Flying easy and knee-deep in love, Thicke is right back where he started from on Love After War, so breathe sighs of relief because the lover man is here with the chilled champagne, neck kisses, and whispering sweet nothings to boot.
Of course the lazy observation about this album is to imply that it will impregnate the female population within the first five minutes (hell, even a crude Sharpie drawing of Thicke on the cover is making my ovaries breakdance)---not to mention be a study guide for the men out there on the art of seduction. By all means this album is a man who is obviously 'in the mood' and whose goal is to get you there too. Still there is a little bit more to Love After War than just some sexual heals. You can't blame Thicke's current state, he recently became a father and he's married to the lovely Paula Patton---how can you not be sunshine and rainbows? He's inspired and on his affectionate grind, with a honey sweetness that is gritty in some places and smooth operator in others.
Love After War is a lush situation that points back to Thicke's 2003 debut, A Beautiful World---back when he was a bicycling Soul music spreading Jesus and giving Justin Timberlake a run for his White Boy Croon cash-ola. On some hand, Love After War is a bit too lush to where by albums' end you're completely sedated and feel like inhibited goo. Then again---that may be the whole point.
The 17-track set, which is primarily produced by Pro-J and Plain Pat, follows a sophisticated concept of quiet Samba swings (something Thicke has done on a number of his sets), with Robin's voice cuddling you throughout. Strangely the album has two safe openers, "An Angel On Each Arm" and "I'm An Animal" that are brass chugging up-tempos, but don't do much. The standouts begin when the fleeting Latin orchestral of "Never Give Up" (courtesy of José Pablo Moncayo's "Huapango" from 1941) bounds in and then flows into the excellent, "The New Generation" which follows in a fuse of earthy hip-hop and 70's Jazz a la The Roots.
The New Generation
Current singles such as the title track and the Lil' Wayne guest spot, "Pretty Lil' Heart" fall into the groove and blend on into fluid pace. "Cloud 9" has Thicke in a traditional jazz state of mind to where it reminds one of George Michael's "Kissing A Fool"---for good reason. "Mission" instantly concocts swoons with it's easy-going sway and Mary J. Blige lends a tender pen towards, "All Tied Up" which is a jovial bounce of a soul stunner and is strangely one of the best things she's penned/produced in a while.
Though it could be trimmed by two maybe even four tracks, with Love After War, Thicke has injected the heart back into R&B, as well as the heart back into his own repertoire. As it's bogged down in creamy romantic lures and lyrical whimsy, there is something that keeps you going through all of it, and it's particularly because Thicke's voice is really something to gush over on this. He's always sounded good and above his peers on his past efforts, but he never sounded this good. Listening to numbers like "Mission", "I Don't Know How It Feels To Be U" and "Cloud 9", I can't help but be moved by his voice and he really does put on a nice performance throughout. So maybe fatherhood and growth into a now fifth set have indeed taken Thicke's craft to another, even greener pasture, as the whole atmosphere on Love After War contains neatly wrapped thrills that make this a true love thang worth savoring.
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Release Date: December 6, 2011