The second of four releases by Robin Thicke in 2006, the Evolution of Robin Thicke made him a star. As a journey through sixteen tracks, this album is tantalizingly uneven. Even so, if the next releases ever add up to a total album, this guy will be on top of the world.
As I listened to the disc several times, it seemed wise to divide the thing into four segments, evaluate, and add them together. In the first segment, the only forgettable track is “Complicated,”—musically and vocally charming, but lyrically simplistic. The standouts are the lead single, “Lost Without U,” a sexy acoustic guitar ballad, and “Got 2 Be Down,” a duet with Faith Evans. This is the second-strongest link in the chain. The second section is buoyed by the upbeat and charming “Ask Myself” and the downright naughty latin-flavored “Teach U A Lesson”.
Someone please quit a job at 7-Eleven so Lil’ Wayne can work there. I’ve not heard a single song involving him and thought, “You know, he should do music for a living.” His rap cameos just ruin the two songs on this release. Maybe Robin should just sing sexy ballads, because as we go into the third section, that’s what you remember. This third section is upheld by the romantic “I Need Love” and the absolutely mind-blowing “Can U Believe,” another single. When he starts the second verse, I find myself singing right along. When Time-Life Music inevitably makes a collection from this decade fifteen or twenty years from now, this song will be on it. About a couple on a sort of spiritual journey through the painful world and needing each other to survive, I’d say this is already Thicke’s signature song.
The fourth segment is far and away the best. Each song in this batch of four induces repeated listens. “Cocaine” is a catchy evocation of Thicke’s past addiction to the drug. “2 The Sky” is a memorable spiritual reflection of deep need; “Lonely World” is equal parts melancholy and hopeful, sounding as though he listened to Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” before composing it, while giving us little reminders of Stevie Wonder as he sings; “Angels” is just pretty; one gets lost in the orchestration, the falsetto voice, the raw emotion. He sneaks in an instrumental reprise of “2 The Sky” in the last two and a half minutes of this song, and the track is among the most pleasant 8 minutes-plus you’ll ever have listening to a song.
Overall, I’d rank 11 of the 16 tracks as ones I like or love. Call it a C+, for really high highs, marred by inconsistency. I definitely want to hear his third release, Something Else. He might do well to hang out vocally in lower octaves now and again. With better songwriting, Thicke could be a dominant star.