It’s not like I’m incapable of swooning to an hour enveloped in an evenly-modulated, tastefully-orchestrated boudoir of silky lite R&B. I’ve already seen Robin Thicke’s third album, Something Else, compared to Marvin Gaye’s 1976 sex-a-sonic opus I Want You, which, if I had been inclined to believe the claim, would have me sopping up pre-ejaculate from the description alone. There are similarities between the two, most notably a shared attempt to sound delicately sensual and musically middlebrow simultaneously. But I’ll be damned if I can imagine Thicke murmuring “suck dick” as Gaye memorably did in the outro to “Come Live with Me Angel.” Musically, Thicke’s dick is in the right place, but when it comes to this genre, I don’t trust any vocalist who spends more time eating his audience out than slapping his own engorged junk against the palm of his hand. Or, for that matter, a lyricist who literally name-drops Gaye in this context and, instead of paying homage to his healing prowess, muses that in his dreamworld Gaye’s father wouldn’t have wished him to die. That said, the PG-13 crowd will lap Thicke’s shtick up. It’s filled with modern approximations of vintage Stax and Atlantic, Curtis Mayfield and Tower of Power (and, in the title cut, Jamiroquai), but is far more likely to appeal to those who don’t own a single album by any of those labels or artists. The sounds are frequently pleasant: “You’re My Baby” drifts on a luxurious bed of bossa nova rhythms and sweet-cream background vocals, “Loverman” is driven by a submerged chug and a truly impressive falsetto performance, and the dramatic minor verse/major chorus tension of “Cry No More” is touched off by gorgeous Rhodes ornamentation. But Thicke’s sweet nothings are very often just that: nothing.
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