An interesting thing happened last night when I tuned into the BET Awards. As Robin Thicke prepared to hit the stage, several women in my Twitter timeline noted they were excited to hear their “white boo” perform.
While I haven’t been bowled over by Thicke in the past, I continued to watch as he lazily crooned through his latest hit single “Blurred Lines” along with his Star Track homeboy, Pharrell Williams and Atl’s T.I.
As Thicke worked the stage, I wondered if I was missing something.
Was this the guy women were going crazy for?
Sure, Thicke is attractive enough, but his voice is mediocre at best and his lyrics aren’t especially earth shattering (the same could be said for a number of pop artists I don’t “get” either). And while many popular artists aren’t as talented as some of their lesser-known counterparts, I began to seriously wonder if the secret to Robin Thicke’s appeal lies in his skin color.
Although he’s personally eschewed the “blue-eyed soul” label and has written a ton of songs for other musicians, it’s hard to deny Thicke has benefitted greatly from borrowing from black music and culture.
After all, when Robin was simply known as “Thicke” and was riding through the streets of New York City with grungy hair and a Beethoven sample, most folks weren’t checking for him.
But once he shed his hippie-looks, smoothed some mousse through his hair, and began partnering with the likes of Pharrell, Lil Wayne, and John Legend, he began to rack up hits on the urban charts and be embraced by black media outlets.
These days Robin Thicke is enjoying the success of his latest single, “Blurred Lines,” which has topped charts both in the U.S. and abroad. Despite his past success on the urban charts, in a recent interview with Houston’s Hot 95.7, Thicke said it felt good to crossover to his own people.
“I have had number ones on urban, R&B and hip-hop charts,” Thicke explained, ”but it is nice when white people are listening.”
Though he’s been in the music business for years, I can’t help wondering if Robin Thicke’s rise to the top has a little something to do with race.