Saturday, May 30, 2015

Robin Thicke

A new musical world order is again on the horizon. First there was rock, then pop, soul and hip hop - long hair, crew cuts, afros, conkalene, baggy pants and cornrows - the convergence of these cultural and musical influences have created a NuAmerica music. Ushering in this new sound is singer/songwriter/ producer, Robin THICKE.

"The (musical) boundaries are being broken down more than ever before,"Thicke states. "Rock and hip hop are intertwined with gospel and classical. I think that music is more open than it's ever been."

After cutting his professional teeth behind the scenes, producing tracks for popular artists like Marc Anthony and Brian McKnight, Thicke is now ready to step center stage with his own musical vision. "For a while, I just thought I'll produce and write for other people," says Thicke. "It wasn't until the last year and a half that I decided I've got to put it all on the line. I've got to commit every day and every note to my album."

Though Thicke is forging a new musical path - one that refuses to be categorized - its roots are firmly planted in a rich musical legacy embraced the world over. Take some Marvin Gaye falsetto, Jim Morrison psychedelia, a pinch of Stevie Wonder, the rock to the hip hop of the Beastie Boys and a little Latin salsa, and you have an idea of the conversion of musical cultures that comprise Cherry Blue Skies, Thicke's debut album on NuAmerica.

Thicke caught the musical bug early, studying his heroes with an almost scholarly zeal. "I began listening to gospel singers at an early age, which led me to people like Aretha Franklin, which eventually led me to Stevie Wonder and a lot of R&B," he recalls. "It wasn't until my teenage years that I started to open my heart to rock & roll and different kinds of world music."

Now, with a&r direction from his friend and mentor, André Harrell, Thicke is pouring all of his creative energies into his own project. Backed by a solid lineup of musicians, including drummer/co-producer Pro J, guitarist Bobby K. Keyes, and guest bassist Sean Hurley of Vertical Horizon, Thicke - who plays keyboards and handles all of the vocals himself - spent the better part of the last two years crafting Cherry Blue Skies.

Much like his musical heroes before him, Thicke has managed to keep one ear to the past and the other in tune with the future. "It's a part of my personality," he says. "I love to party . . . I want world peace . . . I like sexy music . . . and I feel my music should reflect all of that."

All of those facets of his personality are on proud display on Cherry Blue Skies, the debut release from NuAmerica, the new label imprint from the architect of ghettofabulous and music entrepreneur André Harrell and acclaimed hitmaker Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds.

Whether it's the infectious rhythm of "B Alright," the sinuous funk of "Oh Shooter," the haunting imagery and unbowed optimism of the title track, or the emotionally naked ballad "Stupid Things," Thicke navigates a melange of musical genres with a consummate skill that belies his young age.

On "Oh Shooter," Thicke draws inspiration from a harrowing personal experience. "It's actually about a real bank robbery. I was seventeen, and these guys came in the bank and I heard, 'Everybody get on the floor.' Nobody really took it seriously. And then it got a little louder. I turned around and a guy was walking towards me, pointing a gun right at my face."

Though that track has autobiographical elements, Thicke is quick to point out that he draws inspiration from anything and everything around him. "There are times when I'm writing about true-life experiences; if something happens, I go right to the piano." Regarding the songwriting process, Thicke says, "Sometimes it starts with a phrase or a note. There is absolutely no rule for inspiration. I keep my mind open at all times and my ears ready to be touched by something that's inspiring."

The album's title track, with its plea for peace and understanding, was also inspired by a real-life experience, in this case, the terrifying events of 9/11. "At a time like that," says Thicke, who was staying at the Soho Grand hotel in lower Manhattan at the time - with a direct view of the twin towers - "you figure out what's most important to you -- and it's family and friends."

In addition to the album's more serious fare, there are several cuts sure to heat up any dance floor. The opening track "B Alright," a tongue-in-cheek, woe-is-me lament brings to mind Marvin Gaye's classic party groove, "Got To Give It Up (Pt. 1)." And the album's first single, "Alone," which uses Walter Murphy's disco-era hit "A Fifth of Beethoven" as its musical bed, is another contender for dance-hit status.

Robin Thicke All Music Guide Biography
One of the more charismatic, flashy, and commercially successful R&B acts of the 2000s and 2010s, Robin Thicke didn't have the toughest row to hoe to achieve stardom, but he was one of the least likely artists to acquire street credibility. He worked for over a decade as a modestly successful songwriter and fledgling solo artist prior to breaking through -- assisted by the Neptunes -- with 2006's The Evolution of Robin Thicke. On that album, his inspirations, ranging from '70sMarvin Gaye to Philly soul to classic Brazilian music, vividly coalesced with his somewhat brash personality and remarkable vocal skill. It was the first of several Top Ten R&B albums in a career that involved symbiotic collaborations with long-term associate Pro-Jay, Pharrell and Chad Hugo, Mark Ronson, and Polow da Don, as well as credibility-enhancing appearances from (or with) Lil Wayne,Faith Evans, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and T.I. Show biz is in Thicke's Canadian-American genes. The son of vocalist and actor Gloria Loring and theme song composer and actor Alan Thicke, he grew up in suburban Los Angeles, surrounded by the entertainment industry. A demo he recorded at the age of 14 was heard by Brian McKnight, who helped the youngster -- subsequently nicknamed Brian McWhite -- get a recording deal with the Interscope label. However, Thicke experienced his earliest success as a songwriter. Before the end of 2000, he either wrote or co-wrote songs for Brandy ("Love Is on My Side"),McKnight ("Anyway"), Color Me Badd ("Sexual Capacity"), Brownstone ("Around You"), Christina Aguilera ("When You Put Your Hands on Me"), and Marc Anthony ("When I Dream at Night"). He was also involved with several songs onMya's Fear of Flying, as well as the majority of Jordan Knight's self-titled 1999 album, including the Top Ten Billboard Hot 100 hit "Give It to You." Despite all the work as a composer, he was still finding his footing as a solo artist. Advances of his debut album, Cherry Blue Skies, surfaced in 2002, but the album was shelved, adjusted, and given a different title. The revamped version, titled A Beautiful World and featuring Thicke's future wife Paula Patton on the cover, was released in April 2003. It did not leave much of an impression and peaked at only number 152 on the Billboard 200, but the brash lead single "When I Get You Alone" -- which sampled Walter Murphy's 1976 disco hit "A Fifth of Beethoven" -- reached the Top Ten in Belgium, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. Thicke's follow-up, The Evolution of Robin Thicke, didn't arrive until October 2006, but it benefited from a new alliance with the Neptunes. Signed to the duo's Star Traklabel, though still technically an Interscope artist, Thicke scored a number one R&B single with the ballad "Lost Without U," and the album eventually went platinum. Thicke then settled into a lengthy career as a widely respected artist -- with occasional diversions into humorous, self-aware showboating -- who remained true to his root influences while occasionally departing from '70s-indebted stylistic comfort zone. The focused and refined Something Else, a September 2008 release, peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts, highlighted by the disco-soul throwback single "Magic." December 2009's Sex Therapy, led by its Polow da Don-produced title track, narrowly missed the top of the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Thicke's fifth studio album, Love After War, was his most swashbuckling release to date, issued in December 2011. He made a surprising crossover move in March 2013 with the lighthearted, off-the-cuff "Blurred Lines," a Pharrell production with instrumental cues taken from Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up." Assisted by its explicit video, it topped the Hot 100, a rare feat in 2013 for an R&B single. The album of the same title followed that July. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi