Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
A fun game to play when listening to “soul” artist Robin Thicke’s debut, A Beautiful World, is Name That Influence. With songs so derivative you’ll swear they’re note-for-note covers, Thicke’s musical genre may indeed be “one that refuses to be categorized,” as the recording’s press release states, though “a bunch of stuff I heard on the radio” might describe it more aptly. The blue-eyed, silken-voiced crooner, who made his, uh, name playing minor roles on Growing Pains and The Wonder Years, affects a Prince falsetto in “I’m A Be Alright” and infuses some oye como va into “Vengas Conigo.” The album’s catchiest track, “Brand New Jones,” is a funky, trumpet-laced channeling of Stevie Wonderthat is, if Stevie liked to sing about masturbation. And “When I Get You Alone” straight-out samples Walter Murphy’s “A Fifth of Beethoven” for a retro dance number whose odd lyrics are better left misunderstood: “Well does she want me to make a vow?/Check it/Well does she want me to make it now?/On my house, on my job/On my loot, shoes, my voice/My crew, my mind, my father’s last name?” (Note shout-out to dad Alan Thicke.) Hell, it’s probably more efficient just to note that the most original thing here is the weak piano ballad “The Stupid Things.” But with clumsy sentiments from a dude who keeps screwing up with his girlfriend (“Oh yes I recall skipping a breakfast to play basketball/Then feeling two feet small/Sometimes you read like William Shakes/Your scent is sweet like Betty Crocker bakes”), this forgettable track seems more appropriate for the sitcom-drowned teenager that Thicke was than the smooth R&Ber he’s trying to become. Tricia Olszewski