Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Robin Thicke, Blurred Lines: Album Review

It's amazing what you can get away with when you've got
a pretty face. Robin Thicke is fueled almost completely by sex
appeal with a sprinkling of shock value.

Name: Blurred Lines
Artist: Robin Thicke
Released: July 30, 2013
Label: Star Trak -- Interscope
Genre: R&B, pop, soul
Produceers: The Cateracs, Cirkut, Dr. Luke, Jerome Harmon, Pharell, ProJay, Robin Thicke, Timbaland,

Robin Thicke's music serves a definitive purpose: Getting girls in bed.  This in mind, it's no surprise that there is not much more than dirty lyrics, buttery-smooth voice, and club-meets-Motown undertones of his most recent album, Blurred Lines. 
Thicke is smooth. This cannot be denied. His talents lie in hooking people in with his lazy drawl and his sultry falsetto.  Not unlike other popular artists like Justin Timberlake, there's a lot of sex appeal mixed with good-boy charm.  However, unlike Justin Timberlake, sex appeal is pretty much all this guy's got.  But if you get down to brass tacks, sometimes it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you look good doing it.  And Thick is dang fine
Blurred Lines is campy and playful, but generic and stylistically sprawled. Thicke clumsily attempts to branch out from his token R&B crooner style into the world of pop and dance.
We are constantly getting pulled back and forth from the warm ballroom hall to the dark nightclubs from track to track.  Almost right away, Thicke stumbles from the washed-up Motown-style of "Ain't No Hat 4 That" and "Get in My Way" to the herky-jerky hodge-podge of electronic hooks in "Give it 2 U," which is a song who's highest point is actually not Thicke but featured artist Kendrick Lamar. Thicke tries to rap himself in "Top of the World," and that just didn't work.
It is important for listeners to understand that this album cannot be defined by the style (or the success) of its leading number-one single, "Blurred Lines."  Little else on the album can even hold a candle to the quality of that one opening track. I fear that many will buy this album with false expectations.  That's the curse of the single, right there.  You get ONE song to Number 1, and people assume they're all gonna be that caliber.  Unfortunately, you don't really get too much of the minimal and catchy "Blurred Lines" for the rest of the album.  Most of it is Thicke trying to be Enrique, Justin, and Bruno all at the same time.
One thing an artist must do -- especially when he's on the fringe of his field to begin with -- is to stick to his strengths.  If sex appeal was what sold his previous album Love After War, perhaps he should stick to the creamy voice and take-me-I'm-yours lyricism.  You hear this once in a while on Blurred Lines. "Ooo La La" is a decently romantic track, as well as "Go Stupid 4 U."  And I dig the minor-key ukulele in the dance ballad "Feel Good." And while "Give it 2 U" is helter-skelter in its hooks, the Deluxe Edition track "Pressure" is a little more successful in its delivery of dance-worthy beats.  Why that song couldn't have made it onto the basic album set, I do not know.
One of the highest points on this album is the final track -- and ironically the one song that isn't about sex,"The Good Life."  If this rocking waltz were on the radio, I probably would take a minute before switching the station.  Odds are this track will get lost amid the rubbish.
And then, of course, there's "Blurred Lines," the first track, and the song of the summer.  Without a doubt, this song on its own is ingenious.  It's very catchy and dang sexy, but it's also minimal, stealthy, and complex.  You don't get the initial... well... "rapyness" of the song upon first listen, and that's the genius of it! No bells and whistles on this track -- just a groovy bass and Thicke's playful tone, mixed with Pharell's jovial interjections and T.I.'s no-nonsense attitude, reels you in, cushions the blow and creates a very subtle scandal; proof that sometimes, the best way to sell sex is to patiently whisper and wait for the audience to come to you, rather than scream and shout.  The music epitomized its own lyric message: "You know you want it."
It was an obvious move to release this single - as well as it's shocking video -- as the album's sole promotion, and it's a shame that the whole album isn't this clever. Immediately following this masterpiece of a hit, you get "Take it Easy on Me," which is not only super obvious in its intentions, but generic in its electronica and Enrique-esque lyricism.  Sadly, this song is a better representation of what you'll hear for the rest of the album.  Too much of this record is just THERE, without depth and substance.
But, of course, you must consider the audience and purpose. If you want a mottled smorgasbord of musical foreplay for any occasion, you've got it here.  You've got flirt, you've got passion, and you've got downright maniacal craft. But as far as success and reception go, Thicke may end up being no more than a guilty pleasure for most. If you're looking for the next dreamboat with some significant talent in R&B, pass on this album and take a chance on JT's new disc instead.

I give this album a 5.5 out of 10.

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