Robin Thicke is a unique figure in music today; a white man singing r&b music in a genre dominated by African Americans. After all, we haven’t seen this big of an addition to the blue eyed soul movement since Jon B. back in the mid ‘90’s. He got to this point by blessing us with such timeless songs as “Lost Without U,” “Can U Believe,” “Magic,” and “The Sweetest Love.” In fact, his prowess for crafting this style of music has put him in the forefront of r&b and made “Sex Therapy” one of the most anticipated albums of the year.
The first single is the bedroom bound “Sex Therapy” which is pretty much exactly what you expect to hear from Robin Thicke. Using his trademark falsetto on this slow jam, he’s almost singing a lullaby to his girl to get her in the mood. The song is a perfect prelude to what we can expect to hear from him on the rest of the album, right? WRONG! In fact, it couldn’t be more far from the truth. For whatever reason, he decided to throw out most of what worked so well for him in the past and basically “dumb it down” for the listener.
The mayhem begins on the made for radio up tempo “Shakin’ It 4 Daddy” which features flavor of the moment Nicki Minaj. After scratching my head and wondering if he really did a song like this, I realized it gets worse. Now I’m not going to go out and say “Meiple” with Jay-Z is horrible, but when I heard about this collaboration, I expected so much more. Instead, we are presented with Thicke doing more talking than singing, accompanied by a mediocre Jay-Z verse. Sure, it’s a fun little tune, but this is surely not the timeless music we came to expect from him.
One thing to also comment on about this album is it’s the first of Thicke’s albums to carry a “Parental Advisory” tag; and no it’s not just from this guest acts. On “Mrs. Sexy,” I was enjoying the song until all of the sudden the beat stops and he sings “F*** around and miss the show.” Now I’m not for censorship or anything like that, but was this really necessary? I was also really feeling the sound of “It’s in the Mornin” until Snoop Dogg dropped in to provide a much un-needed extended verse. It’s pretty obvious he’s going for a more radio friendly and urban sound on this album.
Aside from this, “Sex Therapy” also finds Robin experimenting with some different elements. The beat from “Elevatas” had me thinking I was listening to a Nine Inch Nails track with its industrial rock feel. On “Diamonds,” which features The Game, it’s a surprising duet that is actually dedicated to their mothers. Additionally, “Make U Love Me” evokes memories of Thicke’s first album with a style that is closer to talking than actual singing.
Up to this point, what I had found to be missing was the timeless brand of r&b Robin Thicke had presented us with on his previous two efforts. That is, until I heard “2 Luv Birds.” This beautiful ballad is where he is at his best; in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if this ode to lovers is used as a wedding song in the near future. He is able to really capture the essence of r&b on a song like this, and unfortunately for the listener, he doesn’t give us anything close to this on the rest of the album.
When reflecting on “Sex Therapy,” those hoping for the timeless r&b he has made in the past are going to be disappointed. To me, this is an effort by an artist to scale back from his roots to make a more radio friendly product while reaching out to the masses. I’m never against an artist striving for growth, but I was really hoping that after the progression of his previous albums, he would continue to solidify himself as one of the best in r&b. Although he teases us with his potential throughout the album, I’m left feeling frustrated by an artist that is truly capable of making classic r&b music.