Artists from the-Dream to Frank Ocean to the Weeknd have been revamping Casanova soul, spiking their pillow talk with arty weirdness. But Robin Thicke is a true believer: In his bedroom it’s still 1974, champagne chilling in the bedside ice bucket. Love After War dips into a range of decades-old styles, from blaxploitation funk to groovy Al Green/Willie Mitchell Memphis soul.
The ”Lost Without U” crooner and Growing Pains scion continues to bound from one R&B mutation to another on his ever-seductive fifth album. Thicke’s creamy voice adds dynamism to the coffeehouse slow jam ”All Tied Up,” the Spanish-guitar-kissed ”Lovely Lady,” and the Prince-ly ”I Don’t Know How It Feels to Be U.” At 17 tracks, his loverman act grows a little exhausting, but perhaps he’s just giving wannabe lotharios a seduction time frame to aspire to. B+ Download These:Bluesy shuffle Cloud 9Slinky rave-up I’m an Animal .
Of the three Justin Timberlake vehicles released this year, only Friends with Benefits, where JT rom-commed around New York City with Mila Kunis, could even charitably be described as a success. No one should be sadder about this fact than Robin Thicke, whose second-biggest career boost (after being allowed to orbit Planet Weezy circa 2008, when that meant something) came from Timberlake’s decision to pursue acting full time. Timberlake’s hiatus from music meant a vacant niche for a falsetto-wielding white dude doing pop-R&B, and Thicke, who outshines Timberlake as a vocalist as dramatically as Timberlake outshines him at pretty much everything else, could certainly fit that bill.
Robin Thicke's Vegas streak goes back as far as his debut single, “When I Get You Alone.” Based on Walter Murphy's 1976 disco hit “A Fifth of Beethoven,” it had the backbone of a flashy and theatrical production, but at that point, Thicke was more of a (likable) snotty brat than a slick showman. Eight years later, after other large-scale songs like “Everything I Can’t Have,” “Magic,” and “Million Dolla Baby,” Thicke has settled into a suave, and even more swashbuckling, sound. Throughout the first quarter of Love After War, Thicke might as well be gunning for a Vegas residency.
She didn’t leave much behind. That’s the inescapable fact of Amy Winehouse‘s posthumous collection, “Lioness: Hidden Treasures.” The album’s 12 songs are the leftovers from a singer and songwriter who was promising on her 2003 debut album, “Frank”; fully herself and even more promising on her 2006 album, “Back to Black”; and then a long, sad story until her death from alcohol poisoning this year. The transformation from the confident, sly, sweet-and-sour-voiced 18-year-old in 2002 to the scratchy, ravaged latter-day star is the album’s back story, even as the music stays chipper.