On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN chopped it up with renowned singer-songwriter Robin Thicke to discuss the 20th anniversary of his debut album, remembering his parents’ legacy, Michael Jackson, and much more.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Robin Thicke is the son of the late actor Alan Thicke and singer Gloria Loring. Robin began his musical journey at a young age, teaching himself to play piano and eventually writing songs for prominent artists, including Brandy, Christina Aguilera, and Mya. Robin released his debut album, A Beautiful World, in 2003, which marked the beginning of his successful solo career.
Robin’s breakthrough came with his second album, The Evolution of Robin Thicke, released in 2006. The offering featured the hit single “Lost Without U,” which showcased his falsetto skills and solidified his position as a leading R&B artist. It later became his first No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Over the years, Robin has released a string of successful albums, such as 2008’s Something Else, which was RIAA-certified gold, and 2013’s Blurred Lines, which achieved a three-time platinum certification and featured the chart-topping, Grammy-nominated title track with production from Pharrell.
In recent years, Robin has continued to expand his repertoire, both as a performer and a judge on the hit television show “The Masked Singer” beginning in 2019. Fast forward to 2021, he joined forces with Pharrell once more for “Take Me Higher,” which served as one of the several promotional singles for his eighth studio album, On Earth, and in Heaven, much of which is dedicated to his late father as well as mentor Andre Harrell. This month, the singer is releasing three new songs recorded around the time of A Beautiful World to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
To help give fans a recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine facts we learned from the Robin Thicke “Drink Champs” episode. Check them out below, and watch the full episode here.
1. On Wayne Gretzky getting traded to the LA Kings while babysitting Robin
When Robin was just 11 years old, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky was babysitting him during the time of his iconic trade from Edmonton to Los Angeles. Caught off guard by the sudden trade news, Gretzky had to take off early the next morning, leaving the Thicke family in need of a last-minute substitute nanny for young Robin.
“My dad took my older brother to Russia for a summer vacation, and Wayne was dating Janet and needed a place to stay in LA. They wanted to hang in LA, so he stayed in my dad’s bedroom for like two weeks,” he explained. “So the phone rings about 7:30 in the morning one morning. I answer the phone, it’s Bruce McNall, the owner of the LA Kings. He says, ‘Can you please wake Wayne up?’ I said, ‘No, no, no, he’s sleeping, I’m not going in there.’ He says, ‘I need you to wake him up.’”
The singer also revealed, “So I answered the phone that Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Kings.”
2. On his father singing the theme song for “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Wheel of Fortune”
The iconic television show “Diff’rent Strokes,” which aired from 1978 to 1985, featured a theme song written and performed by Robin’s father and mother alongside composer Al Burton. The show, a classic in the annals of TV history, revolved around the lives of two Harlem kids adopted by a wealthy Park Avenue businessman. When recounting his late father’s accomplishments, Robin reminisced about his contribution to the unforgettable theme song.
“That’s my dad singing. He was always a writer, and he wrote the original ‘Wheel of Fortune’ theme song, and my mom sang ‘The Facts of Life.’ It was one funny story where my dad wrote the original theme song and after a few years, my dad was making bank and Merv Griffin was like, ‘Who’s this Canadian dude making all this money?’ So he rewrote his own theme songs, so he can own it,” he explained.
3. On Lil Wayne sampling “Oh Shooter” from A Beautiful World
Released in 2002, Robin’s debut album, A Beautiful World, featured his breakthrough single “When I Get You Alone,” which reached No. 49 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and gained significant international success. Serving as a formal introduction to the world, the album blended genres such as pop and R&B, earning him critical acclaim and over 100,000 copies sold in the United States. In celebration of the project’s 20th anniversary, Robin looked back on the offering and how Lil Wayne sampled the opening cut, “Oh Shooter.”
According to Robin, “When I heard ‘Go DJ,’ I was like this is the next big artist. Coincidently, he just reached out to me… The first song on my debut album, A Beautiful World, which it’s the 20-year anniversary which we are celebrating. So he heard the song called ‘Oh Shooter’ on my debut album and he just hit me up out of nowhere like, ‘Yo, I love this record. Can you send me the tracks? You mind if I do something with it?’ He didn’t even take any of my parts out, he just rapped in between where I wasn’t singing and it ended up being on Tha Carter II.”
4. On singing “Lost Without U” for Jimmy Iovine and Pharrell
“Lost Without U,” the second single from The Evolution of Robin Thicke, was released in January 2007. The singer revealed that he performed the song live for Pharrell and Jimmy Iovine before even recording the vocals, which ultimately led to the Virginia native signing him to Star Trak Entertainment the very next day. This marked the beginning of a fruitful relationship between the pair, who continued to collaborate and support each other in their musical careers.
According to Robin, “I go in and I didn’t even record the vocals yet, so I sing ‘Lost Without U’ live in Jimmy Iovine’s for Pharrell the first time he hears it. Obviously, I was signed with Star Trak the next day and ever since then, Pharrell has done nothing but bless me with his genius.”
5. On embarrassing himself in an attempt to rekindle his marriage with Paula Patton
Robin’s public attempts to win back ex-wife Paula Patton ultimately left him feeling embarrassed. Reflecting on a conversation with a close friend, he realized his grand gestures were seen as desperate rather than romantic. Despite the heartache, the singer learned from the experience and decided to focus on his family and personal growth.
“I was confused. I knew that we weren’t supposed to be together anymore, but I had just had a child, and the last thing I wanted to do was spend half of my life away from my child. The next 18 years only seeing him 3 1/2 days a week. So that album was the most jumbled and confused album,” Robin shared regarding his seventh studio project, Paula. While the full-length offering commercially flopped with reportedly only 530 album sales, the singer shared that it ultimately reflected where he was in life.
He went on to share, “That’s what we do as artists. We hit, we miss, but we have to try and share, and tell our story. My story at that time was all over the place.”
6. On his songwriting streak in the ’90s and early 2000s
Prior to putting out his debut project, Robin established himself as one of the music industry’s most promising songwriters, contributing to Brandy’s “Love Is On My Side,” Brian McKnight‘s “Anyway,” Christina Aguilera’s “When You Put Your Hands on Me,” and P!nk’s “Let Me Let You Know,” among others. Reflecting on his contributions to other legendary artists, the musician spoke on writing hits before he had his very own. “I spent 12 hours in the studio every day from 16 to 20. By the time I was 22, I had written and produced two dozen gold and platinum records before I had ever released one of my own songs,” he boasted.
7. On being called a “culture vulture” during the height of “Blurred Lines”
Later in the conversation, Robin addressed accusations of being a “culture vulture” and discussed the controversy surrounding his hit single “Blurred Lines.” Although the T.I.-assisted record amassed millions of streams and became RIAA-certified diamond, the singer admitted the song’s similarities to Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” and acknowledged the copyright infringement lawsuit that he and Pharrell faced. He also touched upon the song’s controversial lyrics, which The New York Times dubbed “rape-y,” and the criticisms he received for his rise to fame through R&B music.
As told by Robin, “There’s been so much said about that; I don’t know if there’s anything new I can say. The fact is my respect level for Pharrell’s abilities and the fact that I was lucky to be in the room… The thing that’s genius about him is he literally wouldn’t have written that song for anyone else. I helped write it, of course. The mastermind that he is… If any other artist is in that room, he’s not going to write that song.”
“No matter what has happened since or in hindsight, the feeling it still gives people right in front of my face is everything,” he later stated.
8. On getting the chance to work with Michael Jackson
Midway through the interview, the “Give It 2 U” singer shared an incredible story with DJ EFN and N.O.R.E. about working with Michael Jackson on the song “Fall Again.”
“Walter [Afanasieff] and I had started a song a few months earlier and so he calls me up, ‘I got a call from Tommy Mottola. He’s looking for a song for Madonna and Ricky Martin, and I think that song we started would be perfect for him. I’m in LA… Can I come up to your studio and we finish that song?’ The day after the Grammys, Walter Afanasieff comes to my studio, and we finish the vocals for ‘Fall Again.’ We send it to Tommy, and he says the next day, ‘This is so good, I’m sending it to Michael [Jackson].’”
He continued, “I’m not allowed to be in the room with Michael, but I’m next door writing for other artists. So I’m writing with Marc Anthony while Michael’s in the studio next door singing my song. I think I’m 21 or something like that. So Michael ended up releasing it on his HIStory album and he kept all my vocals in the chorus.”
9. On his Malibu home being destroyed by a wildfire
In 2018, Robin was among the many affected by the devastating wildfires that swept through California, losing the Malibu home he shared with his wife, April Love Geary. Forced to leave as a part of a mandatory evacuation, he described the scene as just rubble and expressed his devastation over the destroyed neighborhood. Despite the loss, the father of four revealed that he remained hopeful and insisted that he and Geary, who was pregnant with their second child at the time, would return to the site and rebuild their home.
“We got in the car, headed north to Santa Barbara and then went around to her family who’s down in Huntington Beach. We spent the night with them and when we woke up the next morning, a neighbor sent us pictures of just rubble,” Robin stated. “Four years later, in hindsight, I got a brand new home that I built for my kids. I got my own little man cave outside.”
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