Released seven years after his last album Paula, an impassioned attempt at winning back his wife’s love, On Earth, and in Heaven stands as a watered-down comeback for Robin Thicke, whose soulful sound seems to have been dampened by the recent losses he’s endured. While On Earth begins with lackluster toe-tappers, Thicke breaks out of his mediocrity by the end of the album with irresistible tunes “Take Me Higher” and “That’s What Love Can Do,” making the listening journey well worth the 35 minute runtime for anyone needing a lazy soundtrack to their catnap.
To Thicke’s credit, opening track “Lucky Star” manages to bear the heavy subject of familial loss with an ease that comforts the ears, assuring listeners that to grieve a loved one is also to gain a new “star” to pray to. In contrast, the other ode to his family, “Lola Mia” is Thicke’s worst offender of mediocrity with its confusing blend of jazzy horns and underdone lyrics. As Thicke sings, “Got love in my life, mia mia mi amor,” the listener can’t help feeling happy for the 43-year-old father’s obvious bliss while simultaneously wondering why the R&B singer takes on the Spanish language to dote on his daughter, having barely mastered the art of English lyricism in his other serenades.
On the bright side, the neighboring track, “Hola” manages to blend Latin-inspired jazz and soul with less bravado, resulting in a more convincing and enticing groove. The quick interlude “Gorgeous” then saves us from the clutches of “Lola Mia” with acapella harmonies reminiscent of 90s R&B. Immediately after, the album takes its first substantial step on its upward climb to splendor with “The Things You Do To Me,” where Thicke expertly navigates the leap between his sultry lower register and his soaring falsetto throughout captivating verses about the talking stage of romance.
While On Earth is riddled with forgettable moments overall, such as the entirety of “Out of My Mind,” the following track “Beautiful” carries a little more punch with its sonic references to 60s blues (lots of “Shu-bop, bop”) and more mature lyrics (“No time to vacation/ Can’t be complacent/ Storm is ragin’/ I can’t catch a wave in”). Immediately following, the upbeat “Look Easy,” proves itself to be deserving of its spotlight as the album’s fourth single. Repetitive statements of affirmation such as “You make love look easy” are made believable to the listener via Thicke’s ability to ooze warmth in his high croons.
While “Look Easy” still accommodates a snoozeable listening experience, “Take Me Higher” wakes listeners up completely. Soulful ad-libs tease the ears for the first thirty seconds before the Pharrell-produced funk kicks in. In the verses, Thicke compares romance to drugs with his begging words, “I wanna overdose on your touch,” and “Turn me into wine.” The chorus, a tantalizing portrayal of a romantic high, is such a step above the rest of the album that it even allows for forgiveness of subsequent track “Forever Mine”; its colorless lyricism will go unremembered by fans, who are most likely still reminiscing the unexpected groove of the previous track as they listen to it.
In what sounds like a love letter to love itself, the album’s first single, “That’s What Love Can Do” sees Thicke finally achieve his aim of creating an acoustic tune that bleeds of authenticity. As the album’s closer, the song serves as Thicke’s most impressive vocal playground, allowing his humble riffs and buttery vocalisms to shine.
Although Thicke plays it safe on his comeback album, the few risks taken on tracks like “Lola Mia” suggest safety might have been what Thicke needed. While Thicke’s soulful flavor is muted in his new work, listeners still won’t be mad about investing a mere half hour into On Earth and Heaven, which is overall a lovely comeback to be admired and then forgotten.
Contact Nurcan Sumbul at [email protected].