Whatever the issues were that put Robin Thicke's sophomore album on the shelf for the better part of a year, they've likely been forgotten now that the sultry "Lost Without U" has become a long-running number one. We reviewed an early advance of Evolution last year, but since then, Thicke has tweaked the finished product, dropping a few weak numbers and adding a few new ones (including "Cocaine," which sounds like a tuneless update of George Michael's "Faith"). But the central issues remain the same.
Evolution still lives up to its name by trading the by-the-numbers neo-soul of Thicke's 2003 debut for stripped-down, Neptunes-inspired R&B that highlights his heavenly falsetto and mildly twisted fantasies. (Wonder what Robin's pop, the super-straight actor Alan Thicke, thinks about the teacher-student relationship explored on "Teach U a Lesson"?) But like Timberlake, Thicke really wants to be Prince, and like Justin, Thicke isn't anywhere near that evolved. Enjoy this featherweight rhythm-and-breeze for what it is, not for what it aspires to be.