Singer’s hit R&B album inspired by ‘internal struggle’
universal music canada
Soul and R&B producer-writer-singer Robin Thicke thought he had it all.
With over a decade of production and songwriting credits for A-list artists including Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige and Michael Jackson under his belt, Thicke was at the top of his game.
But when his 2003 debut album A Beautiful World bombed commercially, Thicke fell into a deep personal malaise that later fuelled material for his latest CD, the platinum-selling The Evolution Of Robin Thicke.
He calls his latest effort honest and true, but borne of the “internal struggle, and pain and strife” he experienced watching his work fall flat with audiences four years ago.
“I had been making money as a songwriter, producer and singer since I was 16 so I’d kind of been gliding in that I put out my first album and when it fell flat commercially I kind of had a breakdown and issues and problems in every direction,” Thicke says.
“So I think that’s where all of that came from.”
Thicke rebounded in a big way with a Grammy for his work on Usher’s 2004 album Confessions and major commercial success with The Evolution — led by the hit single Lost Without U — both of which spent time at No. 1 on the Billboard R&B albums and singles charts, respectively.
Defined by the 30-year-old singer’s soulful falsetto, the album is peppered with appearances by the likes of Lil’ Wayne, Faith Evans and Pharrell Williams, who incidentally founded and runs the multi-talented artist’s label Star Trak.
Thicke, the son of Canadian-born actor Alan Thicke — well known to TV fans as dad Jason Seaver on the long-running late-’80s sitcom Growing Pains- — and soul vocalist Gloria Loring, has found success in a genre in which acceptance from
African-American audiences can often be difficult to garner for white performers.
But he feels that for white music fans, appreciating soul and R&B music typically requires a certain familiar packaging.
“I think white people have a tendency to have trouble giving credit to black culture until a white person represents it,” he explains. “Until Elvis shows you what they’re doing in the juke joints, the white people don’t want to know about it.”
A self-taught pianist who set out for a career in music at the age of 16, Thicke will readily cite his upbringing as a defining factor that influenced his later passion for music — even if his father’s taste in music was a bit different than his preference for iconic soul artists such as Marvin Gaye.
“Pops was playing mainly Bruce Springsteen (and) Gordon Lightfoot. It was actually cool because my dad actually got a call from Gordon Lightfoot and Gordon Lightfoot told him how good he thought my album was and my dad was like, ‘the only person left is Bruce Springsteen. Now that I’ve gotten a call from Gordon Lightfoot, all I need is a call from Bruce Springsteen and I’ve heard it all.’”