Artist: Robin Thicke
Album: Love After War (Deluxe Edition)
Released on: December 6, 2011
Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter, composer and musician, Robin Thicke has penned songs for Christina Aguilera, Brandy, Usher, Michael Jackson, Ashanti, Mary J. Blige, Mya, Jennifer Hudson and others. In 2006, people began to notice him as a solo artist with the release of his double-platinum sophomore album “The Evolution of Robin Thicke”. From that album spun “Lost Without You”, Thicke’s most recognizable track, which made it to #1 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Thicke was the first Caucasian male artist to top the R&B charts since George Michael. Now Thicke serves up his fifth studio effort with productions by Swizz Beatz, Poo Bear, Jeff Bhasker, Pro-J, Polow Da Don and more.
Love After War began with a great opening in “An Angel On Each Arm”. The song presented components of funk, with strong vocals and a raw quality. On “I’m An Animal”, Thicke continues on an old-school path with live instrumentation and a hook that was captivating, which was probably the best part of the song. “Never Give Up” started off with the sweeping sounds of an orchestra and gradually built with percussion, making it classical yet current. With “The New Generation”, Thicke incorporated jazz elements with nice horns. I loved this groove from the lyrics to the infectious chorus to the smooth background vocals. All of those factors gelled really well. At times, I felt like I was listening to the legendary Marvin Gaye.
The title-track “Love After War” is a great representation of blue-eyed soul, the vocals are fluid and sexy. Thicke really went in on this track! Co-produced by Mary J. Blige ”All Tied Up” exhibited airy vocals, where Robin decided to delve in to his falsetto. The track was really sensual and definitely one of my favorites that I could not resist replaying. On “Pretty Lil’ Hands” Thicke was joined by Lil’ Wayne. Thicke’s vocals were staccato and titillating. Actually, I would have preferred the song without the accompaniment of the rap because it did not add anything to the track for me.”Mission” was a contrast between subduing and passionate and I loved it. The inflections Thicke gave were quite reminiscent of one of my favorite artists, Prince. This was another song I kept repeating.
“Tears On My Tuxedo” was a beautiful track. The first vocal comparison that popped in my mind was Smokey Robinson. It wasn’t the deepest of songs, however I could appreciate it. I loved how much it reminded me of Brazilian Bossa Nova. On “Boring” Thicke gave one of my favorite celebrity couples a cool shout-out and basically, expressed to his love that he is happy he’s in an eventful relationship, where there’s never a dull moment. The song seemed to be an interlude that he decided to lengthen by allowing the instrumental to play out and it worked well. “Lovely Lady” was an interlude that felt nostalgic of Stevie Wonder’s writing ability. Sonically, the track gave me the feeling of Latin Jazz and made me want to dance Salsa. Both songs “Dangerous” and “Full Time Believer” were not much inspiring to me. They were okay, but both turned out to be my least favorites of the album.
“I Don’t Know How It Feels To Be You” was my most favorite song from Love After War. It opened with Thicke’s incredible head voice that was smooth and endearing. I felt the groove was dope and it did not want it to end! Although, I love when Robin sings in falsetto and head voice, I love it even more when he sings in full voice as he does on “Cloud 9″. It demonstrates great masculinity and I loved how jazzy the track was with the piano and light notes of drum. I wanted this track to be much longer! Another track I wanted to be extended was “The Lil’ Things”. I loved Thicke’s usage of melisma on the song. The track was obviously about what really matters in relationships and making memories to reflect on. “What Would I Be” was a piano-driven track where Robin paid homage to the person who loves him completely. I became tearful while listening to the song because it’s a great feeling when someone acknowledges you in that way and tells you just how much you are appreciated. It was a great ending to the album.
All of the bonus tracks were good, in fact, I wished they took the space of my least two favorite tracks of the album. “Stupid Things” added a retro, blues vibe. “Compass or Map” had an organ background instrumental that reminded me of Al Green and “We A Family” was a nice track, pretty self-explanatory. Thicke sang “You and me and baby makes three…If you ever feel like I’m not holding up my end, tell me baby, I’ll fix it, I wanna be your perfect man”.
In conclusion, Love After War exceeded my expectations. It is definitely the best male soul album I’ve heard since Maxwell’s “BlackSummers’Night”. If it weren’t for the two throwaway tracks, I would have considered this album a perfect release. The productions were well-assembled, the songs possessed a level of maturation and overall, Thicke’s vocals were outstanding. For me, Love After War was much better than his last two studio releases. It seems Thicke has found his groove again!