Robin Thicke: Heart And Soul In 'Love After War' Thicke says many of the songs on his new album were inspired by his wife, actress Paula Patton.

Robin Thicke: Heart And Soul In 'Love After War'

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Robin Thicke knows all the R&D cliches; the wistful choruses, sexy murmuring and pretty boy falsettos. So, on his latest album he's mixing it up a bit.


CORNISH: The Grammy-winning soul singer's newest album is called "Love After War," and it showcases the full range of his songwriting skills, skills he learned from the pros as a teenager, after being discovered by the R&B artist Brian McKnight.

: I was 14 years old and he heard a demo that I had done. And he heard I was a white guy and he was like, are you kidding, is a white guy. And so than Brian got me a record deal at Interscope Records when I was 16. He became one of my first mentors.

CORNISH: So from that...

: They used to call me Brian McWhite.

CORNISH: Did they really?


CORNISH: What did you learn about how to build a song?

: Well, he works very fast. He just spits out songs one after the other; where me, I kind of have a love-hate relationship with my music. You know, I like to go create some turmoil and some I hate you, I love you today, now I hate you - you're not good enough, you're never going to make it. You know?


: But he would cut like a song a day, where I'll spend three, four weeks on a song sometimes.


CORNISH: That's a song that kind of gets everybody's heads...

: Oh, nice.

CORNISH: ...moving a little bit.

: Excellent.

CORNISH: Tell us about the writing of that of this.

: Oh, you know, I have - I'm a Pisces, so I'm two fish going in opposite directions all the time, which explains the love-hate relationship. And I think that there's a side of me, it's almost like: Sorry. You know, it's very light on its feet. Like, hey, I'm sorry. I just happened to be dangerous. Just deal with it, babe. You know, I can't help it anymore?


CORNISH: What are some of the R&B cliches that you think kind of exists out there in the pop music scene that you try and avoid your writing?

: Well, I don't really consider myself R&B, per se. I consider myself more of a soul singer. Because R&B today, it's more drop it like it's hot. There's no vulnerability in R&B anymore. It's all I'm popping bottles. I got lots of money. I'm at the club. There's a lot of misogyny.

That's also because most of these guys is you who are singing these records have not been with the same woman for 16 years, like I have. And my whole life is about love and connection and compromise...

CORNISH: And your wife is the actress Paula Patton.

: My wife is a lovely Paula Patton, staring in "Mission Impossible."

CORNISH: So you met in high school, I guess...

: We met when we were 14 and, yes. So she is my all-star, my muse, my guide. And I don't think that most of these guys have a female relationship - maybe besides their mom. They don't have a partner the way I do, so my songs reflect my consistent need for my lovely wife, you know?



: ...where my wife said, no matter how hard you try, Robin, or how compassionate you are, you'll never know what it's like to be black, and you'll never know what it's like to be a woman. And so, I walked right upstairs to the piano and it I said...

(Singing) I don't know how it feels to be you, though I try my best to understand what you're going through. I don't know how it feels to be you.

Because I think that no matter how hard you try, you know, we all have our differences, you know. And I'm making the best effort I can, but sometimes I'm still going to get it wrong. You know?


CORNISH: It seems like you're not afraid to talk about your race in your music, on stage, and in your personal life.

: Yes.

CORNISH: What is it like for you I mean being white and having, I guess maybe mostly black audiences a lot of the time?

: It's not I guess. It's 90 percent every night. And I think it's just because, you know, that was the music that I related to. And then when I met my lady, she was president of the Black Student Union in high school. So, she taught me all these hidden things that were going on in America that most white people wouldn't be able to understand, unless they had a relationship and conversations about it with a black person who's having the black experience in America. You know?

So, the respect that I have for the journey, I think, is just inevitable ‘cause she's my heart and soul. So, you know, I live as much in her shoes as I possibly can.

CORNISH: It seems like people still give you an incredibly hard time about it.

: Who?


CORNISH: Music critics, folks on Twitter and...

: I'd say they're white, you know...


: Now the black critics, they embrace me much faster. The black...

CORNISH: There are some, as well. I remember when you first came out, you know, The New York Times critic kind of saying...

: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

CORNISH:, oh no, slow jams from the son of an actor, you know.

: Yeah. Oh yeah, my dad has a new and in an article - there's an article now for the Huffington Post and...

CORNISH: And we should have said your dad is Alan Thicke.

: Yes.

CORNISH: He was an actor on "Growing Pains," and your mom Gloria Loring.

: She said being in a Canadian sitcom dad is pretty much the anti-street cred for a young soul, hip-hop singer. You know?

And so, yeah, I had to fight through all of that. But it only makes it sweeter when it stays real, because I could've started making meaningless dance music so I can get rich. I like listening to it when other people do it, but I don't feel it. You know? It doesn't touch my soul, so I can't do it, you know, even though I've tried.



CORNISH: One of your early hit songs where he was covered on the TV show "Glee" recently?

: Yes.




CORNISH: And that's the song "When I Get You Alone."

: Oh, that's hilarious. I've never heard that.

CORNISH: Oh, you haven't...

: Oh, my gosh.

CORNISH: a cappella version of it?

: Oh, my God, that's comedy.

CORNISH: Well, your version of that song I remember it was back in the day in a music video where you're playing the long haired...

: I had long hair.

CORNISH: messenger and...

: Yes.

CORNISH: Now, I mean...

: Well, I had long hair at the time, yes.

CORNISH: That you had long - although your hair is pretty long right now. It's just...

: It's a little more vanilla iced.

CORNISH: ...coiffed - yeah.

: Right, yeah.


CORNISH: A little bit. How did you - when was it that you figured out kind of who you were, image-wise?

: Oh, I think just in the last month or two.


: I'm being totally honest.

CORNISH: Really?

: Absolutely. I wore black everywhere for five years. It's only been in the last couple of months that I've finally just let go of everything. I always wanted to be such a serious, cool artist, and be so brooding. And I just gave all of that up. You know what I mean? Now I just want to enjoy myself.


CORNISH: Well, Robin Thicke, thank you so much for coming by and for being so honest and sharing about your life….

: Thank you.

CORNISH: ...very personal life.


: Thank you. Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

CORNISH: And you can listen to songs from Robin Thicke's new album, "Love After War," on

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.


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