Robin Thicke is Ready for ‘Something Else,’ and So Are We

Robin Thicke gets a lot of attention here at SoulBounce, and with good reason. He is one of those artists helping to expand the common perception of who a soul musician is and what contemporary soul music should sound like. Recently posted a preview of the album art for his forthcoming album Something Else, and almost simultaneously a Billboard interview was posted in which Thicke's being labeled a "blue-eyed soul" singer is brought up again. We have to ask: How big of an issue is his whiteness, really?

SoulBounce already went Behind the Groove with Thicke, broaching this subject with him during Butta's interview. You should have a listen if you haven't
already. Ultimately, though, it's likely that other sites will pick up
the transcripted interview in which Thicke discusses not getting to be
on a VIBE magazine cover, and attempt to sensationalize it as an
example of prejudice against white practitioners of black music. The
interviewer encourages this, asking him about what it's like
"trying to break the color line from the other side" as though he's the
first and only white person to have accomplished recording an album of
and influenced by traditionally black music. Seriously.

Thicke responded with an anecdote about a recent experience with VIBE that only proves he likes
the magazine, that his interview with them had no promise of a cover,
and that he instigated the rejection, not them. He says he respects
their decision because he "lives in the same house as a black woman"
(referring to his wife, actress Paula Patton). He goes on to address larger issues of close-mindedness in the music industry and the resilience of passionate artistry regardless, stating:

"I won't use the word 'racism.' I will say it's a tough--but rewarding--fight. I look at Mary J. Blige, somebody who has had only a few pop
hits and yet has changed culture, generated new sounds and inspired
leagues of artists. She's now a worldwide phenomenon. And it's because
of what she stood for; she never gave up. She kept making great music,
pouring her heart out to people."

"You can't always expect people to be as color-blind or open-minded as
you want. What you can do is keep giving your heart and soul, like Bob
did. His music became so overwhelmingly loving; it was a
relentless love in a sense. Keep beating them down with love and they
can't stop you."

So, what do you think? How big of an issue is his whiteness, really?

Robin Thicke

Something Else
Available 9/30

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22 Responses

  1. Let's not do him like some whites do Obama, and make him jump through hoops. Love is IS Love...right?

  2. Longtime Soulbounce lurker, first-time poster...
    As an African-American soul music fan I have a tremendous amount of respect for Robin Thicke's talent. That being said, I we all aspire to a meritocracy I think at some point we'd have to agree that he's NOT the MOST talented male soul singer out there and a large part of his success is in fact due to his race. I can't speak to the "particulars" surrounding the Vibe cover incident, but Robin Thicke has been on the cover of (and inside the pages of) magazines that NO black soul singer has EVER appeared on/in.
    If you want my further thoughts, check out this piece I recently wrote on the "Blue-Eyed Soul" phenomenon and why I think it's ultimately bad for black musicians:

  3. Eh. It's not as if VIBE has a deep pool of popular male R&B singers to put on their cover that isn't of the Usher/Chris Brown/Ne-Yo contingent. I think they should relax the "no whites" rule for that very reason. OR, do the "unthinkable" and put a progressive soul artist on the cover. What do they have to lose at this point?

  4. To me, this cat has proven himself with his music. And it's not so much of him trying to emulate soul music, but his own twist on it. He has nothing but love for the old school. So for that reason alone his whiteness means nothing. Would you ask the same of a Michael McDonald or Hall and Oates or hell, Eric Clapton? Nope. Why? 'Coz they're music just is the soul, the blues, the r&b, the jazz that it's made of. And yeah, talk about some high-scale company I'm putting Robin in, right? LOL. But he might get there if he keeps just doing him. I can see him in the echelons of YTsoul before I could say a Justin Timberfake...*cough* I mean, Timberlake. *wink* Please don't flame me too much, okay people? LOL

  5. I didn't even address the VIBE cover...LOL...just went off on my own tangent. I'll agree with nOvaMatic.

  6. Avatar

    I could care less what color he is the man makes great music and unlike the other newer "blue eyed soul" that he get compared too he actually has been writing his own music from the on set instead of singing Pharell songs... But my only problem with him is he's a bitter and sounds "at times" to much like Marvin Gaye.. He's not the only one I mean El Debarge, Chico Debarge, Brian Mcknight, and a host of others all drink from the fountain of Marvin (that sounds bad)...And it not like the guy (Robin) does not have his own voice..He's just been using it much less since the second album and I'm afraid this album will be chock full of Marvin Gaye "ohh's and Ahh's",.. I will purchase it though but if he just clones he'll never be taken 100% least by me

  7. I take offense to the comment about not supporting black musicians. Soulbounce acknowledges people who wouldn't get press from anywhere else. They take soul very seriously, and give black artists and musicians their shine. None of the artists out today are on par of the legends, that is a fact. Robin is on the come up just like everyone else. He has not reached a Maxwell or D' Angelo level but the man does have talent and his music deserves to be recognized just like all the rest. Blue Eyed Soul is a term that carries no weight. Mediocrity, misogyny, and complacency have destroyed the soul movement not a group of white artists singing from their soul. That complaint doesn't wash.

  8. I agree with you about VIBE not having anything to lose at this point, nOva. Still, that article about him being "too white" for VIBE is ridiculous. It's not like they poured hot soup on him for sitting at the blacks-only lunch counter-- he already had an interview, he asked to be on the cover, and he was told no with a straight-forward explanation. At least they didn't give him the runaround that many black artists (and artists of color in general) get when they are excluded from the majority of print media, not just the cover of a magazine in which they were already going to be featured. What it all amounts to -- the original interview and the subsequent implications of racism -- is the entitlement fueled aggrandization of a situation all too familiar to his non-white counterparts that is often dismissed as a non-issue or hypersensitivity, not unchecked and covert racism from VIBE.

  9. @ Ro: True, true. But this really ain't the time in music and print media for them to be picky based on that kind of criteria, especially when we can look back on the past couple years of VIBE covers and see what kinda bullshit they've been putting on there. I mean, if they don't use Thicke it's not like they're putting Eric Benet or Rahsaan Patterson in his place.
    Someone (another soulful writer) said SB reminds him of what VIBE used to be. So maybe they should take a cue from us, represent artists/music that are pushing this thing FORWARD and not cling to the archaic ideals and approaches that contribute to them losing thousands of subscribers each month.

  10. and let us also point out EMINEM AND JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE have both been on the cover. VIBE is full of shit. With beef in it.

  11. I hate to call Thicke a liar, but The Beastie Boys, Eminem, Gwen Stefani, and Michael Jackson have graced the cover of VIBE. Wait, MJ is black, isn't he?... Eminem was on the cover twice...I can't imagine VIBE saying that. I can't wait to see what they have to say.

  12. I hate that race has to be an issue here at all. Yes, certain genres came out of particular groups...but I mean, if you can do it, and do it well, then PLEASE keep on going.
    And I found it kind of funny on the singersroom article that they threw Justin Timberlake into the (blue-eyed) soul mix. He has some R&B/hip-hop elements to his music...but I consider him very much a force in pop more than anything.

  13. magazine covers are only about subjects that are mostly likely to spur an impulse buy.
    that is all.

  14. It's sad that race has to be an issue with certain genres, I mean what happened to everyone being who they are, the colour of your skin shouldn't really come into the equation really. If you're bringing the goods to music, then that is all that matters.
    I guess I've also come to realise that race in the USA is a bigger issue than it is here, don't get me wrong, there are race issues here. But I think with the States being a lot bigger than the UK (and we have 4 countries here), it seems more of an issue over there. We do get things like this happening here, but it just seems a bit sad that sometimes someones potential in music is questioned or they're not featured on certain radio stations because they aren't fitting into that certain bracket. What happened to loving everybody? We're all God's children after all. Colour, creed, etc shouldn't come into the equation, if you're delivering the goods you should get the love and respect that you deserve.

  15. And just to point out, there is a new editor at Vibe. The same editor who put Justin, Gwen, and Eminem on the cover is not at Vibe any longer. Not to mention Thicke is so called neo-soul. You don't see anyone from that genre on the cover of Vibe. If you want to hear about Maxwell, Eric Benet, etc. you could to SoulBounce not Vibe.

  16. @ nOva: I completely agree with you about how an unwillingness to put Thicke on a cover weakens our chances of seeing other (and much better) artists on VIBE, and that this isn't the time for print media to be acting all uppity about who they put on the cover of magazines, a medium that has had a continual, unrelenting decline in sales over the last several years. And damn right they should take a cue from SoulBounce about everything you said and more. Preach!
    Frankly, I think Thicke bringing this up at all was insolent and catty. Especially when, like you and others have said, there have been other white people on the cover of VIBE. Since green is the color most considered while selecting someone for a magazine cover, you have to wonder what else was driving this alleged snub.

  17. @ Ro: If they DID indeed say that, I would say it's not so much that he's white but its the fact that he's white + my mama can listen to him, lol.

  18. If you really think about it, it's just a cover.I rather put someone else on the cover IMO.Color has lot to do with everything and it always had.I do think he has an advantage due to his color because Amy Winehouse,Justin Timberlake get a whole lot of love and to my fellow black musician barely seeing the light of day and been doing it for the love of it makes me wonder.But oh well, just my opinion.

  19. nova are you really snarking about vibe based on this unsubstantiated comment? if anybody said that to him it wasn't a co-worker of mine. that is beyond ridiculous. no whites policy? lol c'mon. it doesn't exist. you could've at least tried to verify this. I'm on your buddylist.

  20. "And just to point out, there is a new editor at Vibe"
    her name is danyel smith and she was also EIC of vibe during the glory days everyone says they miss. and she's not new, she's been back a couple of years now.
    khalid - THANK YOU for using your brain lol
    look you guys...a robin thicke vibe cover is not out of the question one day. who knows, maybe it was considered. but the person who is on the'll probably see why he had to take a backseat. magazines need to do numbers to stay in business. *sigh*

  21. "I look at Mary J. Blige, somebody who has had only a few pop hits and yet has changed culture, generated new sounds and inspired leagues of artists." This comment is snide and importantly inaccurate. Mary J Blige is the author of a new style, genre of music. C'mon Mary has been around for twenty years and has had more than a few hits. Mr Thicke's response sounds like the classic White privilege response. His current song is okay, he had a hit and he is comparing himself directly or indirectly to Mary J Blige, by inaccurately describing her success? You have a long, long, long, long, long way to go before you should begin complaining or comparing yourself to the "greats" You will get Vibe covers when you have contributed "enough" great music" to the public. Stop complaining and get to creating!!!

  22. I am sorry Sandra, maybe we read it differently. What I got from that statement was that even though Mary was not a huge POP artist, she still changed music and created a legion of fans. Now correct me if I am wrong, but Mary never really had a "number one" pop record. Now R&B yes. But honestly, she just resently became a charted artist. We the fans always supported her, but the "industry" grammy nods and such are resently recognizing her within the last couple of years. Also I didnt read that he was comparing himself to her, but admiring her and hoping that even though he is not " a charted" artist, he will still influence a style of music and inspire others. You are right. He is stating from a white point of view, but you are stating from the black. Yes, we knew about Mary and we love and support her, but really did the white community know her before she did the duet with Bono and sang with Elton John?? I dont see why you took offense to the comment when actually is sounds like someone giving praise and wanting to emulate a career.