Ok, let’s get this straight to start . . . I am 100% African American. My parents are from Dunn, North Carolina respectively who moved down to Miami with nothing but their BAs in Political Science and Nursing (I’ll let YOU guess which one has which one) with the American Dream firmly printed in their vision for themselves and their family.
I grew up in a small town outside of Hialeah, FL called Miami Lakes. At the time, my family was the only swatch of color in that community but luckily, my teachers, church members, playmates, and their parents never made me feel weird about that reality – I went to ballet school, church, learned piano, and had sleepovers within that community (feeling like a regular kid up until middle school).
Despite that reality, my parents were adamant about sharing/teaching my brother and I our culture through film (“The Wiz” and all concert/musical films from Motown including “Lady Sings The Blues” and later “Dreamgirls” ), speeches (cassette tapes of Dr. King and Malcolm X played on their respective bdays every year), music (all things Motown and Stax Records played REGULARLY at my house), and literature (we still own Alex Haley’s “Roots” and I have read “The Color Purple” on my own at least 3 times). These provisions kept me grounded into my heritage and made the budding music critic that I am today. It also helped me appreciate the concerts I had the privilege of going to as a pre-teen – Michael Jackson’s “Bad” Tour and his sister’s “Rhythm Nation” Tour at the Miami Arena.
But I also wanted to belong in an established clique in elementary and middle school so I had to embrace the music genre that Berry Gordy strived to reach with his artists – POPULAR MUSIC. So I went to New Kids on the Block sleepovers, Madonna dance-a-thons with my childhood besties after school, Selena/Shakira sing-offs with my Latina friends, and later fell in love with the Spice Girls (especially Scary Spice aka Mel B. who helped me see myself amongst my own friends) and the Backstreet Boys (wrote an album review of “Millennium” in school newspaper, went its concert tour in college).
In my late teens, Thicke came on the scene with “When I Get You Alone” – a cute music video of a long-haired bike messenger at work in New York City – and I fell hard. I remembered the sample coming from the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack but his blue-eyed soul was undeniable. I knew I must have his album IMMEDIATELY (and I did and loved it even more).
Over the years, I learned about his backstory as the son of “Growing Pains” dad Alan Thicke. Right there, I respected him so much more because he CHOSE to become a musical artist when he could have EASILY chosen a simpler (and maybe decadent) lifestyle.
After songs like “Brand New Jones,” his breakthrough album “The Evolution of Robin Thicke” (produced by Pharrell Williams) was a musical revelation – it was a gumbo of bossa nova, acoustic soul, introspective ballads, and socially conscious collaborations with Lil Wayne. Specifically, “Lonely World” was my anthem during a painful time in my 20s when I was trying to get through a series of emotionally destructive relationships. He encouraged me to move forward and to never give me up. For that, I will always be eternally grateful.
After some college teaching, Mr. Thicke put out “Something Else” with the single “Magic” brightening the airwaves with hope, love, and 70s soul. Then when he collaborated with the neosoul, Hip Hop Queen, Mary J. Blige for its remix, “Magic” struck twice. So I immediately got tickets with my tiny paycheck to his/her concert at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL.
His opening act and setlist was perfect, filled with new music, R&B classics, and introspective musings that I appreciated so much. Her set naturally was an extended version of his which made it a wonderful concert to attend.
Now as we prepare for his new album “Blurred Lines” to come out tomorrow, I am waiting with baited breath. I have already heard another song from the album where he collaborates with Timbaland and it is AWESOME (definitely a “club banger” aka a great song for the dance clubs).
I just hope he can appreciate the love and respect I have for him as a consumer of his music but also his musical content. We need more artists (black, brown, blue or yellow) who have that bravery to be themselves and put out.