Don’t you hate it when artists you once loved seem to lose their way? I don’t know if Robin Thicke has gotten all the way to that point with me yet, but I must admit that a good chunk of the appreciation I had for him during the Beautiful World and Evolution days has dissipated. Could be a little jealousy because the rest of the record-buying audience has caught up. Could be the fact that his last album, Sex Therapy, was a little half-baked (and led me to harbor unnecessary hatred for Nicki Minaj for several months after that “Shakin’ It For Daddy” garbage).

Anyway, after taking a break to spend time with his dime piece wife Paula Patton and their new baby, Big Rob is back with “I’m An Animal”, and, I don’t know. This joint is a little suspect. I do like the big, brassy soul sound. It’s a welcome return to a more soulful sound after Sex Therapy took a few steps in a jiggy direction…not a good look when the word “jiggy” is about fifteen years past it’s sell-by date. I’m all for sexual bragging and boasting, but…didn’t R. Kelly explore similar terrain not too long ago? Maybe it’ll take a few more listens for me to get it, but this song feels a little derivative and lazy. It also kinda sounds like a previous hit single of his, “Magic”. And I’ve been riding for this dude for a long time. I’m hoping the rest of his upcoming fifth album measures up to my admittedly lofty expectations, but this isn’t a very good first look.

…and in this corner, we have the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul (and former Robin Thicke duet partner) Mary J. Blige. Her new album, My Life 2: The Journey Continues, is scheduled to drop at the end of this month. I’m not totally sure that it makes sense for Mary to reference her classic 1994 album since her life has changed so much. I can’t tell whether Mary’s going for the same vibe or just cashing in on the cred that My Life has. At any rate, a reunion with her former mentor Diddy on “Someone To Love Me” didn’t really work, and although “The Living Proof” is the theme song to the #1 movie in America for the past month (“The Help”), it also hasn’t done much in terms of sales and airplay. So Mary is back with “25/8”. Yep, that’s “24/7” with a little sumthin’ extra. Mary’s voice? Strong as ever. The song itself? I’m a little on the fence.

I’m a little afraid of ML2 (which is now due at the end of the month), but Mary’s engendered enough good will over the past two decades that I’m willing to shrug off a bad album or two. My sincere hope for both these artists (and favorites of mine) is that the material on their upcoming albums turns out to be a little better than their preview singles.

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