A typical release from Robin Thicke, who broke big last year with his slinky bedroom ballad ”Lost Without U,” isn?t so much an album as a survey course in Late 20th- Century Smooth. The 31-year-old L.A. native uses himself as a sort of musical medium, conjuring up everyone from ”Sexual Healing”-era Marvin Gaye (falsetto-swathed sweetheart ode ”You’re My Baby”) to Curtis Mayfield (the strutting, horn-heavy ”Hard on My Love”) to Stevie Wonder (crooning piano anthem ”The Sweetest Love”), and even KC minus the Sunshine Band (”Something Else,” a bona fide roller-skate jam). Thicke imbues the album with a bachelor-highlife vibe, all cuff links, cocktail glasses, and a Mad Libs shuffle of soigné seduction phrases.
Yet what could come off like a bad lounge act on the lido deck is somehow elevated, both by Something Else’s buttery production and by Thicke’s own light-footed ease with the material. As a songwriter, producer, and general man-about-the-industry, he has made appearances on recent albums by 50 Cent and Lil Wayne, and penned songs for the likes of Christina Aguilera. On his own time, though, he relies much less on that kind of strident urban currency. It’s not so much that Something is old-fashioned (both the sound and his videos clearly benefit from the best in current technology) as it is happily inclusive of the past. There may be very little here that is truly innovative, but Thicke proves that new dogs do old tricks pretty well. B+
Download This: Listen to tracks off of Something Else on the musician’s MySpace page