Evolution is a simple enough theory to grasp: It’s the gradual progression of change over time. In his sophomore album, ‘The Evolution of Robin Thicke,’ Thicke attempts this type of progression in his music. Yet the singer/songwriter, formerly known for his guest roles in episodes of ‘The Wonder Years’ and ‘Growing Pains,’ fails to do so. In fact, ‘The Evolution,’ a combination of ballads and dance songs, is a classic case of de-evolution.
When listening to Thicke’s album, the first thing to note is the number of ballads in which he has written about love, frustration and anxiety. The overwhelming number of these tracks should make the album more appealing to women than to men. In ‘Complicated,’ one of the better ballads, Thicke utilizes an upbeat rhythm that makes listeners immediately want to snap their fingers as he croons about relationship problems. Likewise, in another bluesy tune, ‘I Need Love,’ he manages to reveal some of his vulnerability and project a melancholy aura. However, after listening for some time, many of the songs like ‘Teach U a Lesson’ can become trite and repetitive. It’s sad to say that Thicke fails to come up with other material to sing about.
One noticeable flaw in many of Thicke’s ballads is his tendency to stay in the same range. Later on, true to the album’s title, Thicke’s vocal range does evolve a little bit as he shows off in a few songs. ‘Lost Without U’ displays a raw sound combined with a smoothness similar to that of Usher. He is especially poetic in ‘2 the Sky,’ where he creates a pure yet melancholy vibe, one of the few songs that truly shows off his voice. But these are only two songs out of 16.
Even though Thicke’s music is classified as ‘pop,’ it lacks the teen angst typical of other pop artists. On the bright side, listeners can relate to the emotions Thicke expresses in his lyrics. In one song, ‘Would That Make U Love Me,’ he deals with issues of identity and sings about overcoming conflicts of religion and color to get the girl he loves to love him back. The track becomes even catchier with its techno flair. On the other hand, ‘Ask Myself’ discusses ‘growing pains’ and making his life better than it appears to be.
Apart from his lyrics, Thicke can be commended for attempting to experiment with a variety of music styles and a range of instruments. The few club songs displayed on the disc are well-mixed, using the Neptunes, Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo to full effect. Other tracks, like ‘Everything,’ have an international appeal, arranged with drums and trumpets and colloquial phrases like ‘yo te quiero mucho.’
Most notable are the various collaborations on the album, which are surprisingly better musically than many of Thicke’s solo songs. For one, Thicke’s grave voice pairs well with other singers to create an unbeatable intensity in the music, such as in ‘Got 2 B Down’ featuring Faith Evans. Secondly, the collaborations provide a balance to many of Thicke’s ballads, such as ‘All Night Long,’ in which Lil’ Wayne gives the music a slightly more sexual appeal, a welcomed deviation from Thicke’s solo tracks.
In the end, it’s safe to say that Thicke’s attempt at ‘Evolution’ didn’t make it all the way. There are some songs that show creativity in terms of lyricism and musical style, but the other tracks can be overused and monotonous. Those who listen to the album will find it good but not great.