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Is Robin Thicke Just A 'Creepy Crooner'? The 'Shop' Guys Weigh In


I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Now it's time for our weekly visit to the barbershop. We know it's Thursday, but in advance of the holiday, we thought this would be a good time to get together, get a little shape-up right before holiday. The guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. So sitting in the chairs this week are writer Jimi Izrael, with us from Cleveland. Arsalan Iftikhar, founder of the, is with us from Chicago. Healthcare consultant, a contributor to National Review Online, Neil Minkoff, is with us from Boston. And right here in Washington, D.C., Corey Dade, contributing editor for The Root. Take it away, Jimi.

JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Hey, fellas. Welcome to the shop how we doing?

COREY DADE: Hey, hey, hey.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: What's happening, man? What's cracking?

NEIL MINKOFF: Living it.

IZRAEL: Come on get happy. There's a barbecue in your future - in your immediate future. Happy early Independence Day.


DADE: Yes, indeed.

IZRAEL: Well, since the...

IFTIKHAR: America.


IZRAEL: America, indeed. Since the U.S. is out of the World Cup, let's bring things home right to Cleveland. As it turns out, somebody...


DADE: All roads lead to Cleveland.

MARTIN: All roads lead to Cleveland. All - go ahead Jimmy.

IZRAEL: I mean, right? They don't?

MARTIN: Do your thing. Have your moment.

IZRAEL: OK, well, Kyrie Irving is the not the only guy excited about the $19 million deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Corey, Corey Dade, CD.

DADE: Yes, sir.

IZRAEL: You think he's worth the money - oh, yeah?

DADE: Oh, yeah. He's definitely worth the money. He is probably the best young point guard in the Eastern conference, all due respect to John Wall. The best point guards are in the West, so he has no competition there. But, you know, he had another year left on his contract so he had nowhere to go. He had no deals to make. He - you know, his issue is staying healthy. And now that they just drafted Andrew Wiggins out of University of Kansas, that could be a dynamic duo. So he has every incentive to stay put for now.

IZRAEL: Well, that is a big issue though, CD, staying healthy.

DADE: I know.

IZRAEL: I mean, I don't play ball and my hand hurts and my knee is going out.


IZRAEL: But of course I do box, so there's that. Doctor Neil, LeBron James reportedly wants a short-term contract of 22 million. Will he get it from the Heat, and should Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade take pay cuts to make it happen?

MINKOFF: You're going to make me say nice things about LeBron.


IZRAEL: That's the purpose.

MARTIN: Do it. Go out of your comfort zone now.

MINKOFF: He's worth way more than that. It shows, actually - I can't believe I have to say these things - it shows a real championship spirit amongst the others that they would take a pay cut to facilitate having the best player in the world continue to lead them to championships. He is worth a tremendous amount more than that for that team. You know, what they do have is they have Pat Riley by the short hairs because, you know, theoretically, according to the news reports, they all have structured deals in places that haven't been signed and a list of free agents that he's expected to go get. But if he doesn't produce, he doesn't necessarily get the big three back. They have all the leverage there, and he's worth more than that. He is.


MARTIN: Well, it also shows the benefits of working together. I mean, it was reported - you remember the sitcom "Friends" - well, it was reported that part of the reasons that these guys were able to be as well compensated as they were is that they all worked together in concert, that they were all willing to discuss and all work together as a team. And they were able to negotiate their deal as a team, which is one of the reasons they were able to...


MARTIN: So I think that's one of the interesting developments here is that these three guys are, if reports are correct, working as a team. I don't know, Arsalan, what do you think? Go ahead.

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, well, I mean, here you have, you know, essentially three mercenaries who are willing to opt out of their contracts to take a lower pay to try and bring a fourth potential mercenary - maybe a Pau Gasol from the Los Angeles Lakers initially thought - maybe point guard Kyle Lowry, but he ended up resigning with Toronto. What I found interesting about this whole free-agent sweepstakes was Carmelo Anthony recently went to Texas. He went to both Dallas and Houston, you know, to see what they had to offer. And what was really interesting is when he went to Houston, outside the Toyota Center, they had a huge picture of Carmelo Anthony in a Houston Rockets number 7 jersey. But the problem is that the number 7 jersey of the Houston Rockets currently belongs to Jeremy Lin. And so it was kind of a slap in the face to Jeremy Lin - you know, to have this huge poster of 'Melo outside basically saying that, you know, your days here are numbered. And so it's going to be really interesting to see how NBA free agency ultimately pans out.

IZRAEL: Well...

MARTIN: That was wrong. That was not - I mean, well, what are you going to do?


MARTIN: It's like the trailer world in Hollywood, right? You know, big is your trailer and how close it is to the set.

DADE: Jeremy Lin - Jeremy Lin needs to put on his big-boy pants. He knows what time it is. He knew he wasn't going to last beyond this season with that team. They were going to deal him anyway.

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, but you put some other number on there, dude. You don't put - you don't put your guy's number up there with a new - with a guy who hasn't even signed.

MINKOFF: Yeah, I agree.

DADE: It's a business. It's a business. They have no loyalty to these players, especially a Jeremy Lin.

MARTIN: I know like - why did you call - you called the players mercenaries - how about strong strategic thinkers? I mean, what's up with that - like, why are they mercenaries when - you know what I mean? What - why..

IFTIKHAR: We've had this discussion before, Michel. You and I are not going to agree on this.


MARTIN: OK, all right - all right.

IZRAEL: OK. All right, from sports...

MARTIN: That was very mature of you Arsalan, thank you.

IZRAEL: Can we move from sports to music please because clearly haters are going to hate, but we've got to give props to Robin Thicke for laying it on kind of thick, I guess. The singer's new album is titled "Paula." He's trying to get his woman back. Can we drop the clip please?


ROBIN THICKE: (Singing) Oh, baby, I got a feeling, tonight. Please, please, please, please, please, please, please touch me, you're my fantasy.

IZRAEL: Wow. He's caught a lot of flak and also his perfect analog to Marvin Gaye's "Here, My Dear," which was actually part of the divorce settlement he made. He was just like saying - here, my dear., take this - this is your album. But anyway, so this was a - this is a different thing. But I'm going to stick up for my boy Thicke. Man, I say, you know, the romantic is dead. And I think it's really kind of sick that, you know, we punish men for being too masculine, then we punish them for being too romantic. And I feel like Robin's catching a lot of flack for trying to get Paula Patton back. I mean that's - I didn't mean for that to rhyme, but, hey, it just happens when you have the time.


IZRAEL: Corey Dade, you're not so optimistic are you?

DADE: Yeah, I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.


DADE: I mean, I give props to any man who's willing to show, you know, his sensitivities and is willing to do whatever he can to get his women back. But, you know, let's not go too far. Here's a line from one of his songs called - the song "Lock The Door" - (reading) at least open the doggy door, throw a friend a juicy bone. That is the extent of his romantic, you know, expertise here. If that's what he's dealing with - you know what - he can kiss that goodbye. I mean, I think...

IZRAEL: Well...

DADE: I think there's a difference between...

MARTIN: Is it that it's lame or is it that the lyrics are lame and simplistic, or is it that the total picture, like his behavior at the music awards with that dance with Miley Cyrus, which took place in front of her that a lot of people thought it was just a bit much. I mean, what - is it the total picture? Is it the album itself that's lame in your view? What is it?

DADE: Well, first of all...

MARTIN: Because begging has a very long history in R&B, OK? Like, I don't think there would be an R&B without begging.

DADE: Yeah, I mean, the please, please - baby, baby please - I mean, that's part of the DNA of R&B.


DADE: So that's all good. But when you are begging in a way that, you know, goes to this level - first of all the lyrics are lame. I mean, he's the creepy crooner at this point. To me it's - there's the...

IZRAEL: Oh, come on.

DADE: Yeah, there's the analogy - OK, there's the analogy of him - you know, it's like on Facebook, when you're posting things to get public sympathy. It seems like the public display is about his narcissism and promoting an album more than a sincere effort to actually go after his wife. Why don't you talk to her directly?

IZRAEL: Well, you know - you know what this is? You know what this is, CD? I don't mean to cut you off, but he's trying to live that very sincere - that very serious R&B singer life. And on some level, he's being punished for trying to front like he's a black R&B singer, when in fact, he's just kind of a white guy that sings black. And he's trying to live all that life because really, what black R&B singers do best, from Sam Cooke to Barry White to R. Kelly, they beg for their women back - that's what they do best.

DADE: I think the difference is - but you know what, I go to Daryl Hall and John Oates - I go to Simply Red - they're all kinds of, quote-unquote, "blue-eyed soul singers," who actually do it authentically. And I think what's missing here is the authenticity that comes across to the audience. There's nothing that seems sincere about this album. He said he put this album together in two weeks and it shows.

IZRAEL: Neil Minkoff.

MARTIN: Neil, what do you think?

MINKOFF: This is going to sound like a cop-out, but I had never heard of Robin Thicke before "Blurred Lines." I didn't expect to hear much from him again.


MINKOFF: I think it says something so bizarre about our celebrity-laced society that we're having a conversation about this not particularly, you know, this somewhat obscure singer's divorce and whether or not he's over sharing. I personally think it's creepy. I personally think there - from what I've read there's way too much personal detail that his wife probably wouldn't want released and the average American to know about. But I think it says more about who we are as a society that we even care.

MARTIN: Interesting point. Go ahead. Arsalan, what do you think?

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, I mean, I cosign everything that Neil and Corey just said. I mean, I think it's - you know, if the question is, is it romantic or is it lame? It's both - it's romantically lame.


IFTIKHAR: You know, I think he took it too far. He had a Twitter hashtag called #askthicke where the public just, you know, essentially, you know, lambasted him for this whole, you know, experiment. And I think that, you know, if you're going to get your woman back, that's - that is to be commended. I have no problem with that. But again, like Corey said, to sort of do it in this manner was a romantically lame way of doing it.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, we're having our weekly Barbershop roundtable with writer Jimi Izrael, Professor Arsalan Iftikhar, journalist Corey Dade, healthcare consultant Neil Minkoff. So let me ask you all about something that's - you know, Neil, you pointed out the fact that sometimes the kind of - the urgent drives out the important.


MARTIN: The celebrity drives out the important. I know that you were very interested in a topic that we discussed earlier in the program today. We talked a lot about the - it's been a very important topic - the killing of the three Israeli teenagers and a lot has happened as a consequence of it. There's a suspected revenge killing. There have been, you know, military strikes. There have been, you know, air strikes in Gaza. There have been, you know, Palestinians killed in rock throwing incidents with the police after - who were searching for these boys. And I just wondered if I can just ask you what you make of this. I mean, Arsalan, do you - part of your career has been kind of trying to address these issues and address them in a human way. Do you have some response to this that you wanted to share?

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, you know, Michel, it was interesting - earlier this week, I was at the Aspen Ideas Festival and I got a chance to actually sit down with former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. We were at a picnic table for about an hour when this - when the news of these three teenagers was starting to break. And Ambassador Oren and, you know, I were just talking to each other about how important it was to humanize the other to each other.

You know, when Israelis die, we tend to see, you know, Israelis stand up and mourn for them. When Palestinians die, we see the same on that side. And I think it's important for us to acknowledge the humanity in one another and, you know, call out the tragedy when three, you know, young, Israeli teenagers are murdered or when a Palestinian teenager is murdered in retaliation. I think we need to, you know, sort of look beyond our own comfort zones and bring the humanity out in one another. And that's something that, you know, sadly has been a part of this whole violence-begetting-violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

MARTIN: Neil, what about you? Does this kind of hit home for you in some way?

MINKOFF: Yeah, of course it does. I mean, as an American Jew and as a parent, it hits home. I mean, to me- it's so convoluted; do the military strikes come after the rockets are fired? Do the rockets come after the military strikes? And is the kidnapping and killing a result - a reaction to a military strike, or is that a reaction to a rocket being fired? Even before we can get to an idea of two people sitting down and talking about peace, we almost need, like, this cooling off period - like, can we just have a month where nothing bad happens? - so that we can just hit the reset button and not every action is a result of - is a reaction to something that's already occurred. We need this cooling off period to prevent another military strike or another intifada and be able to have a period where there is a true reset button so that everything can start fresh again.

MARTIN: Corey, can I just ask you this because I know that one of your portfolios is covering politics? You know, we saw a recent poll from a credible organization, showed that 33 percent of American voters think Obama is the worst president since World War II. And I just have to ask whether part of, not this, but other kind of chaos in other parts of the world or these very troubling situations is part of what's contributing to that and whether you feel that he's exerted leadership on this issue appropriately?

DADE: I don't think there's any statistical significance in the polls to tie sort of his poll, you know, plummeting to his foreign policy. I think what you see is Americans are tired of sort of U.S. engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan. They generally - and polls show this, too - they generally want the U.S. to pull back from these engagements, and they're war-weary. And then the other big thing is - when it comes to American politics and how voters think, voters are very - hardly ever - influenced significantly by foreign policy. And so especially in an off election year, it's just not a - they're two separate and distinct things.

MARTIN: Interesting. Well, let's end on a high note, though. As we mentioned, we're having the Barbershop on Thursday because we figured you might want to make an early exit for the weekend. We do have a program tomorrow, but we're going to let you guys get your barbeque on early. So what are you guys doing for the holiday> Anybody want to let me know? What you doing, Corey?

DADE: I am going to the birthplace of - I guess we call it the birthplace of America, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Where else to go than that to celebrate America's independence? Going to Philly.

MARTIN: Philly?

DADE: Taking my daughter up there. Really, it's just an excuse to see my favorite band, The Roots, kick it for free.



MARTIN: Well, I think your daughter will enjoy that time with you. Neil, I understand you have a yearly tradition.

MINKOFF: Yes, we do the same three things every year, and they're hokey. And you guys can make fun of me if you want. We read the Declaration of Independence together as a family. We tell the story about Hancock and Adams, passing away 50 years later on the Fourth of July, and we go to our little small-town parade and watch the floats go by and watch the Revolutionary War re-enactors fire off their muskets.

MARTIN: Very, very, very nice. I think that was...

DADE: Wow, OK. I'm embarrassed now.

MARTIN: ...Jefferson, wasn't it? Jefferson and Adams on the same day?

MINKOFF: Isn't that what I said?

MARTIN: You said Hancock, John Hancock. I think you said Thomas Jefferson.

MINKOFF: Oh, I'm sorry. Sorry, I meant Jefferson.

MARTIN: OK, all right. Well, rehearse that before you read the Declaration of Independence. I know you will. Arsalan, our friend, it's Ramadan.


MARTIN: So the barbecue's going to have to happen late, right?

IFTIKHAR: Yes. So the 7 million American Muslims - we're going to have to wait for our Halal hamburgers until sunset on this Fourth of July.

MARTIN: OK, but you're going to have one though, right?

IFTIKHAR: Absolutely.

MARTIN: All right, Jimi, what about you?

IZRAEL: Michel, I'm going to try to get through it like I try to get through every day. It's going to be Hot Sauce Williams for one.


IZRAEL: That's it. That's my life, sorry.

MARTIN: Oh, we'll throw some extra...

MINKOFF: Jimi, come visit. Come to the parade with me.

MARTIN: Yeah. Help him read the Declaration of Independence.

DADE: Yeah, Jimi.

MARTIN: Get the names right, you know.


MARTIN: He's a writer, I mean, you know, he's an editor. He cares about stuff like that. Oh, well.

IZRAEL: There you go.

MARTIN: I hope everybody has a happy and safe Fourth.

MINKOFF: And the same to you.

MARTIN: Oh, thank you. Jimi Izrael is a writer. You can find his blog, Neil Minkoff is a health care consultant and contributor to National Review Online. Corey Dade is a contributing editor for The Root, and Arsalan Iftikhar is founder of and an adjunct professor of religious studies at Depaul University. Thank you all so much.

IFTIKHAR: America.

DADE: Yes, sir.


MARTIN: And remember if you can't get enough Barbershop buzz on the radio, look for our Barbershop podcast. That's in the iTunes Store or at That's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Happy Independence Day, everybody. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.