Robin Thicke - Sex Therapy

Robin Thicke
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There is no doubt Robin Thicke has grown to become the consummate ladies man of R&B. His thin but calming falsetto (one just a tad bit lighter than Bobby DeBarge's) along with his finely-tuned ear for infectious, soulful melodies has earned him a proper place in the hallway of modern R&B's balladers. But Sexual Therapy: The Experience (or the ST: Soul Sessions, if downloaded) takes Thicke, the son of actor Alan Thicke, from the confines of being sensual to raunchy, even silly at points.

Blame it on his newly adapted, sexually-charged behavior and a need to push for bigger risks wrapped with a whopping Parental Advisory sticker. It's odd to hear the gentleman Thicke musically display the kind of freaky nature exhibited notoriously best by R. Kelly. Meet a very different Thicke from Cherry Blue Skies or even last year's Something Else.

There is no doubt Robin Thicke has grown to become the consummate ladies man of R&B. His thin but calming falsetto (one just a tad bit lighter than Bobby DeBarge's) along with his finely-tuned ear for infectious, soulful melodies has earned him a proper place in the hallway of modern R&B's balladers. But Sexual Therapy: The Experience (or the ST: Soul Sessions, if downloaded) takes Thicke, the son of actor Alan Thicke, from the confines of being sensual to raunchy, even silly at points.

Blame it on his newly adapted, sexually-charged behavior and a need to push for bigger risks wrapped with a whopping Parental Advisory sticker. It's odd to hear the gentleman Thicke musically display the kind of freaky nature exhibited notoriously best by R. Kelly. Meet a very different Thicke from Cherry Blue Skies or even last year's Something Else.

The album paces itself around a gimmicky sex counseling session and depends on more samples than ever before and even more cameo appearances to boost his street cred in the R&B world. A very familiar sample of Al Green's "I'm Glad You're Mine" (already landscaping Chico DeBarge's "Oh No" on his Addiction album) offers a comfortable template to "Mrs. Sexy," but leaves barely a tease of originality. On the title track, Thicke discovers a smart way to use suppressed strings on a steamy R&B groove. This time around, he playfully inserts a familiar melody from Lesley Gore's "It's My Party" into the chorus and the arrangement works. But it is his library visit into his Marvin Gaye's catalog - his prominent musical influence - on "Million Dolla Baby" that reveals an unflattering abuse in the copy-and-paste department. What's so problematic about the song is how Thicke displays such an obvious spirit of laziness by taking the lyrics from "Trouble Man" and only gingerly replacing them with his own. This is more than just artistic sampling; this feels like a sneaky way of avoiding the act of plagiarism.

About the only tracks worth gleaming over are cuts like the calming soulfulness of "Brand New Luv" and the Snoop Dog collaboration on "It's In the Morning." The latter, barely making it across the three-minute mark, entertains with its sweet sonic sirens and Quiet Storm steam. "2 Luv Birds," another satisfying addition, doesn't shy too far away from the musical bliss of "Sweetest Love."

Still, there's no avoiding how disastrous Sex Therapy really feels when factoring in the high "f-word" moans on "Meiple (featuring Jay-Z)" and the adventurous mixtape nature of "Elevata;" areas all too luridly new for the relatively squeaky-clean, blue-eyed soul singer. The suggestive material takes the album into a territory that focuses more on his curiosity for the profane rather than churning out incredible, career-defining music.

So, if one were to really rate Sexual Therapy on beats and grooves, it fares well with some of the urban R&B projects aimed at youngsters. Unfortunately, for Thicke's recently-established following, that devoted cluster of women (and men) who felt cozy while listening to the retro soul on The Evolution of Robin Thicke and Something Else and who expected another record containing "grown folks" R&B, the gripes could begin to flood in about how distracted Thicke is at winning newer audience members while not leaving enough content to satisfy the ones he's already swooned. Nothing's wrong with a mature man struggling with the angst of trying to stay young, but please have enough material that is going to help elevate your artistry (and your fans), not just compromise it. Not recommended.

By J. Matthew Cobb

 

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