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Surfacing

Turning the spotlight on musicians making a commercial breakthrough.

“The Evolution of Robin Thicke”

Robin Thicke

Interscope

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Artist info: He may look like his father -- actor and composer Alan Thicke -- but he sounds nothing like him, nor his mother, singer Gloria Loring. Stevie Wonder seems to be Thicke’s main musical template, but his album also exhibits some bossa-nova influences and a nod to hip-hop. Justin Timberlake’s stubble may adorn his chin, but Thicke has a more laid-back vocal approach without Timberlake’s intensity and hyperkinetic energy; think of Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside in his heyday, a toss of the quiff and “Ohhhh, girl ....” The new album, Thicke’s second, contains inventively sparse arrangements with strings and percussion, lyrics expressing a refreshing self-doubt and Thicke’s effortless falsetto floating over all.

Back story: Thicke learned piano in his early teenage years and by 16 was writing songs for such artists as Brandy and Brian McKnight. Over the next several years, he contributed songs to gold and platinum albums with Usher, Mary J. Blige, Michael Jackson and Christina Aguilera. His first album, “A Beautiful World,” was released under the name Thicke. Pharrell Williams (of the Neptunes) became involved last year, producing the new album’s first single, “Wanna Love U Girl,” for his Interscope-affiliated label Star Trak Records. “Evolution” was released in October but recently has been moving impressively up the Billboard album chart.

Influences: Stevie Wonder, Jamiroquai, Michael Jackson

Trivia: Thicke is married to actress Paula Patton (“Deja Vu,” “Idlewild”), who appears on the cover of his debut album.

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