Robin Thicke Underwhelms at the Montreux Jazz Festival

Robin Thicke Montreux Jazz FestivalHe’s not really in the Elmore mode, but Robin Thicke’s recent megahit “Blurred Lines” undeniably trips my dance “on” switch. Based on having seen his videos for that song and one infamous VMAs performance, I expected so-so vocals and a spirited performance. I got neither.

While Thicke may not be Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars or Pharrell Williams as a vocalist, he held his own. A big band and seriously talented backing singers never hurts, but still Thicke reliably ran through his own material and a few tried-and-true numbers like “Let’s Stay Together,” and in my personal playbook, anyone who’ll follow Al Green has to have some balls.

Thicke hasput out a new album of material, a breakup album, as it were, following his high-profile separation with wife Paula Patton. It’s always dangerous to read too much into a performer’s material or their performances, but Thicke just didn’t seem to be enjoying himself. It’s one thing to sing “Baby won’t you forgive me” and communicate the pain, it’s another to communicate “I wish I weren’t here, singing this song.” Every once in a while his snow-white smile would seem genuine, but that could have been professionalism, or just the lighting.

A pro will come through, and in the end, Thicke went out into the crowd (a Montreux tradition) for “Blurred Lines.” Lost in the crowd and largely invisible, Thicke gave us an extended version of his song about getting it on and, on that last song of the night, sounded happy at last.

– Suzanne Cadgène

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