After a six-and-a-half-year gap, Robin Thicke is back with a new, genre-bending album. Titled On Earth, and in Heaven, the record drops on February 12 via Lucky Music and Empire and is a testament to the growth the 43-year-old has undergone during his time between full-length releases.
While Thicke has been anything but inactive in recent years—he’s remained a household name thanks to his tabloid presence, a few singles and his role as a judge on The Masked Singer—the time since his last album in 2014 has seen him take a step back from releasing music in order to do some much-needed soul-searching. Basically, it’s been a time characterized by one personal tragedy after the other for Thicke. His marriage fell apart (messily), his father, Alan Thicke, and his mentor, Andre Harrell, both passed away and his house burned down in the 2018 Woolsey Fire. Yet, there have been good times too—since 2018, he’s had three children with his new partner and now-fiancé, April Love Geary.
“A lot of tough times and a lot of changes on the homefront too,” Thicke told American Songwriter. “But, I think the music is just an example of what I’ve had to do to take all of this loss and hurt—and some self-inflicted trauma—and turn it all around for myself, for my family, for my children and for my music. They all go hand-in-hand. The music is representative of me taking these last handful of years and turning it into something positive, something beautiful.”
It’s true that some of Thicke’s trauma was self-inflicted. Although he first rose to prominence in the early 2000s for his crystal-clear singing voice and smooth R&B arrangements, it wasn’t until 2013’s “Blurred Lines” that Thicke became the superstar he is today. Despite its numerical success (it’s lauded as one of the best-selling singles of all time), the misogynistic tone of the song and its music video left a dark mark on Thicke’s reputation. Even the song’s co-writer—Pharrell Williams—eventually came out and said that he was “embarrassed” by the song and would “never write or sing” something like it today. Thicke, for his part, has made no such recension. Add in the copyright lawsuit that broke out regarding the song and you can begin to see just how messy all of that success can be.
Nonetheless, it was in the wake of “Blurred Lines” that Thicke’s personal life really began to fall apart and he owns up to his self-inflicted mistakes from that time. “I started to lose the purity of the music,” Thicke explained. “My first few albums had more mature intentions, but then I started to get caught up in the fame and the hit songs and that whole aspect of it. That’s why this time away has been good for me, it’s been healing. It’s helped me fix some of my own issues from the inside out. This new album is a more mature version of myself because I’m really not in need of those superficial rewards anymore.”
That’s true too—life was different for Thicke after his father died in 2016. “When my father passed, that changed everything I wanted to say and talk about in my songs,” Thicke remembered. “So, at that point, I began writing and collecting songs, but I still wasn’t close to finishing an album. It wasn’t until Andre Harrell, my mentor and creative partner, passed away last year. When he passed, I just looked in the mirror and realized that I owed it to him to finish the album. For all of the love, support and information he gave me over the years, I wanted to honor him—and my father—by finishing it and making it the best I could.”
When listening to the songs on On Earth, and in Heaven, that extra layer of emotion is noticeable. On songs like “That’s What Love Can Do” and “Out Of My Mind,” Thicke’s powerhouse voice works lock-in-step with his tasteful R&B production-style to create an air of celebratory introspection… all while being irresistibly dancey. Also notable is the record’s natural feel—relying on live performances, the infectious chemistry of a group playing in a room together shines warm and bright.
“With this project, I definitely wanted more instrumental solos,” Thicke explained. “I tried to cover almost every instrument in the orchestra to have a solo on this album. I didn’t really intend it that way from the beginning—in the past, I would usually just do vocal solos. But, this time, I really wanted to let the music breathe like it does in a live show. Plus, I wanted to let the amazing instrumentalists and band members have time to let their voices and their instruments shine also. That way, I feel like you really get the whole landscape of musical architecture.”
An additional highlight on the record is “Take Me Higher,” another collaboration with “Blurred Lines” co-writer, Pharrell Williams. “That song started nine years ago back in the Blurred Lines sessions,” Thicke remembered. “We did three days and we recorded three songs. I always loved this track, but I felt like it needed some elements to take it up a notch. Then, we got together again a few years ago and we added the intro, the guitar, the strings, some horns and more guitar. With all of that, the song started to take on a new life. Then, I sorta put it in my back pocket, knowing whenever I do release a new album, I was definitely going to include it. You can never have too many Pharrell jams.”
Ultimately, On Earth, and in Heaven shows us the same Robin Thicke that we’ve always known, but with an extra level of care—care for his craft, care for his public persona, care for his family and the things that he’s identified as important to him. Always seeking to make the world a friendlier place through his art, Thicke hopes that his public message of positivity in the face of adversity can rub off on others.
“When artists dive deep and talk about their lives in an honest, sincere way, it connects with people,” Thicke reflected. “So, obviously, I’m putting music out because I want to connect with people. I want it to make their households a little happier, their mornings a little brighter, their fireplaces a little warmer and their wine a little better-tasting.”
Robin Thicke’s new album On Earth, and in Heaven is out now on all streaming platforms. Watch the lyric video for the single “Lucky Star” below: