NEW YORK • In 2013, Robin Thicke's annus mirabilis devolved into an annus miserabilis. He released his sixth album, Blurred Lines, whose catchy title track shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. But he was accused of appropriating black music, a charge given extra juice by a copyright infringement lawsuit pitting Thicke and Pharrell Williams, a co-writer of the song, against the heirs of Marvin Gaye.
The singer did little to help his cause, undergoing a messy public break-up with his wife, actress Paula Patton, and giving testimony in the Blurred Lines trial that was by turns obstinate and incoherent. The result was a US$7.4-million (S$9.9-million) ruling in favour of the Gaye estate that stunned a music industry that has always made room for creative cannibalisation of the musical past.
Thicke has been lying low for several months, spending time with his young son, writing and recording music and readying an appeal in the Blurred Lines case.
Recently, he sat for an interview at a recording studio in Los Angeles where he was finishing work on an album, to be released this year, that is tentatively titled Morning Sun.
Here are edited excerpts from that conversation and follow-ups by phone and e-mail.
The story of the writing of Blurred Lines in your testimony was different from that you gave in interviews. You testified that you were intoxicated at the time of those interviews and that you misrepresented the extent of your role in writing the song and the influence of Got To Give It Up on the song. Do you stand behind that?
What I will - what I can say - is that when I did the deposition, it was two weeks after my separation from my wife. I was going through personal hell. And I was careless in the deposition. I didn't give my all to the trial. I was lost at the time.Pharrell testified that Blurred Lines and Got To Give It Up have a similar "feel" but he made a distinction between "feel" and plagiarism.
In popular music, you know, there're only so many chords being used. On the Internet, there's this thing where this band play the same four chords and they do 75 hit songs with the same four chords in the exact same pattern. That just shows you some of the limitations in popular music.
On Morning Sun, you give co-writing credit to Barry White. Was your decision to include White due to the verdict?
I know I have a target on my back and my team wanted to be extra cautious given the past year. And until the court decides on inspiration and "feel" in music, I wanted to make sure I would never be in a difficult situation with one of my idols ever again.
How do you now feel about Paula (2014), the album you released at the time of your break-up?
My team and my record company didn't want me to put it out, but they stuck by me. In hindsight, the only thing I would have done differently was, I wouldn't have promoted it or sold it. I would have given it away. That would have kept the purity of the message intact.
The moment when I put my son first in all my movements and decisions is when everything changed for me. I'd been in love with my high-school sweetheart for 20 years, and I knew nothing else - and when that fell apart, I lost hope and faith in the good things.
And then with some time off to just put my son first, I realised how special my life is, just with him. Everything got better from that moment on. So that's what my new album is about.
NEW YORK TIMES