On Earth, and In Heaven (released February 12, 2021)
At this point, I think everyone reading this has their own personal story of hard times over the past couple of years.
Our man Robin Thicke definitely has been going through it.
If you’ve been following his career, you know the story – the tabloid drama, lawsuits, broken marriages, a fire that destroyed his home and the death of his beloved father Alan Thicke. But you don’t hear enough about the positives – including a new marriage and three new children.
Thicke is rebuilding both his life and his career.
A few weeks back, he spoke with my boys at YouKnowIGotSoul.com about On Earth, and In Heaven, his eighth LP and his first in nearly seven years. This quote about regaining his lost focus really stuck with me:
“It became about wanting the music and the fame. That’s where I started to lose myself and then I lost the music a little bit. It took years for me to get the confidence back and just to devote myself to making the best music.”
It’s rare that you hear an artist of Thicke’s stature publicly admit his shortcomings. But it’s that honesty to himself and his craft that makes On Earth, and In Heaven such an incredible comeback story.
And by the sound of things, he’s feeling pretty great these days.
In an era of dour, gloomy perspectives – both in music and in real life – album opener and current single “Lucky Star” is a vibrant breath of fresh air. Thicke just exudes energy on this uplifting track, feeling like a midsummer night’s dream. But not a Midsommar night’s dream – that movie is a nightmare.
The mood remains infectious on the first half of the set, with the fluid production and lively vocals of “Hola” making the atmosphere incredibly inviting. Thicke is certainly no stranger to Latin-themed production, with “Lola Mia” (named after his two daughters) standing near the top of that heap.
With Thicke, it’s always the little touches that matter – the chimes that bling in time to the hook of “Things You Do to Me;” the sax that ushers the song away on the outro; the beautiful acapella interlude “Gorgeous,” which feels plucked out of 1991 in all the best ways.
I’ve constantly said that music speaks to the times, so Thicke has no problem using On Earth, and In Heaven as his personal platform. “Beautiful” borrows from the hopeful soul of the 60s in its quest to ease the pain of a broken world. “Out of My Mind” likewise seeks optimism in uncertain times while “Look Easy” serves as an open love letter to the world’s unsung heroes. “How do you do it/how do you bear/Standing in the eye of the storm like you don’t care?” Its inclusiveness is why it works so well – from the frontline medical teams to grandma on the front porch, the message is as heartfelt as it is relevant.
And speaking of relevant, “That’s What Love Can Do,” the first song Thicke wrote after the passing of his father, hits your feelings like a Mack truck. “You may not know until you grow/who you are or what you know/but everybody finds a love.”
Our man Robin has grown a lot since the days of the Paula album.
If you’ve wondered why I haven’t dropped any of my usual scathing critiques, it’s because, well, I don’t have any. My biggest criticism of Thicke’s previous albums over the years has been inconsistency – great tracks mixed almost less stellar offerings. On Earth, and In Heaven easily bucks that trend. He sounds his most focused and confident here. In fact, from song quality to sequencing to an overarching theme, it may be his most consistent album. Ever.
One could argue that On Earth, and In Heaven’s biggest flaw is that it lacks the ready-made hits his previous LPs boasted and they wouldn’t be wrong. But remember that YKIGS quote – this album isn’t about finding the biggest hit, it’s about finding the best music.
And most importantly, it’s about Robin finding himself again.
Best tracks: “Things You Do to Me,” “Lola Mia,” “Out of My Mind”
4 stars out of 5