Hats off to Robin Thicke for ably competing in small waters crowded with BIG fish, namely legend-in-the-making John Legend, whose highly anticipated Evolver hits stores at the end of the month, and Mr. “SexyBack” himself Justin Timberlake. With Timberlake out of the picture, at the moment, and Billboard cover boy Legend waiting to take the R&B reigns, it’s natural for Thicke to be shaking in his boots a bit, but with Something Else in his backing he’s not going out so easy.

Bringing life back to celebrated crooners Marvin Gaye and Al Green, Thicke takes note from the aforementioned neo-soulmen yet trades the overdriven sex appeal of Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds, Legend’s “P.D.A.” and his own catchy “Wanna Love U Girl,” off 2006’s The Evolution of Robin Thicke, for a more focused, instrumentally centric approach.

From the Spanish guitar influences of album opener “You’re My Baby,” a tantalizing ballad that hypnotizes listeners with each and every soft spoken Ooh and Ahh, to the upbeat, Isaac Hayes-esque celebration of “Sidestep,” Thicke finally finds comfort in his own voice, but more importantly his own style and image. No longer is he directly competing with Timberlake and Legend in mind, but is instead marking his own territory.

More daring than ever before, Thicke explores more styles and themes than previously heard, with a Jimi Hendrix-inspired “Hard On My Love” and the disco-chic of the title track. Keeping with the times, Thicke even breaks into political thought via “Dreamworld,” where he sings, “The icecaps wouldn’t be melting and neither would I,” and Lil Wayne’s cameo on “Tie My Hands” where the New Orleans rapper rhymes about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Grade: A

Something Else

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