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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Adored by the ladies

August 16, 2008|Mikael Wood | Special to The Times

Thursday night at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, Robin Thicke introduced "Dream World," a track from "Something Else" (due out Sept. 9), by telling the packed room that the song is about "an ideal world with no racism and no poverty." The tune offers a few more features of Thicke's utopia: "The ice caps wouldn't be melted," and "energy would fall down from the sky." Oh, and also -- the singer "wouldn't be so damn sensitive."

Yeah, right.

The son of "Growing Pains" star Alan Thicke and singer-actress Gloria Loring, Robin Thicke is the current king of soul-music sensitivity, a Marvin Gaye-inspired lover-not-fighter whose well-sculpted songs ripple with a tenderness that seems almost philosophical in comparison with his peers' descriptions of love in the club. Thicke's subject is romance, of course, but he roams beyond the bedroom; at the House of Blues, he dedicated "Ms. Harmony," a smooth ballad from the new album, to "the type of woman who loves herself from the inside."

"Ladies, don't stop believing in yourselves," he urged.

Call him the Oprah of R&B.

Thicke's evolved-male attitude has won him a devoted (and ethnically diverse) following; more than once Thursday he ceded lead-vocal duties to his fans, who knew every word of his songs. Fronting an agile seven-piece band, Thicke previewed material from "Something Else," including the album's lead single, "Magic," an up-tempo disco-soul romp that recalls late-'70s Michael Jackson fare such as "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough."

Most of the 80-minute show, though, came from Thicke's breakthrough album, "The Evolution of Robin Thicke," which has sold more than a million copies since its release in 2006 and established his reputation as a performer after many years spent writing songs for other acts.

He decorated "Lost Without U" with tricky vocal runs in his signature falsetto. In "Complicated," he rode the band's swinging soul-funk groove with obvious glee.

Thicke sang only a couple of numbers from his underloved debut, 2003's "A Beautiful World," but they were among his strongest at the House of Blues. "Oh Shooter" (which Thicke retooled with help from rapper Lil Wayne for "Evolution") was a study in dynamics, Thicke piloting the song from a lithe R&B intro to a hard-rocking climax to a cooled-out reggae coda. And "When I Get You Alone," built atop a liberal sample from Walter Murphy's "A Fifth of Beethoven," pulsed with headstrong motion.

In addition to his own stuff, Thicke did two covers Thursday: "Brown Sugar," by the recently troubled neo-soul star D'Angelo, and "Happy Birthday," which Thicke sent out to Halle Berry, whom he pointed out in the venue's balcony. For a minute, Berry captured the crowd's attention.

Then all eyes went back to the brainy heartthrob at center stage.

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