Robin Thicke: Blurred Lines

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Posted July 31, 2013 by in Disco
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Rating

Overall
 
 
 
 
 

2.5/ 5

Details

Genre: , , ,
 
Producer: , , , , ,
 
Label: ,
 
 
 
 
Genre: Disco, R&B, soul, pop
 
Producer: Jermone "J-Roc" Harmon, Dr. Luke, Pharrell, ProJay, will.i.am., The Cataracs, Robin Thicke
 
Label: Star Trak, Interscope
 
Format: Digital download, compact disc
 
Time: 42:34
 
Release Date: 12 July 2013
 
Spin This: "Blurred Lines," "4 the Rest Of My Life," "Pressure,"
 

Pros:

'Blurred Lines' is his dancefloor-ready record
 

Cons:

Lyrically challenged; way too hard to beat the title track
 

On new record, blue eyed soul boy wonder replicates the tempo of “Blurred Lines,” but lacks lyrical muscle

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

On new LP, blue eyed soul boy wonder replicates the tempo of “Blurred Lines,” but lacks lyrical muscle

White boy soul is now the trending topic, and guys like Justin Timberlake, Mayer Hawthorne and Robin Thicke are the greatest of beneficiaries in this high blaze of popular occurrence. It’s not a new fad, especially for Justin Timberlake. But Thicke’s rise to the top is one that deserves some extra evaluation. You see, Thicke jumped into the recording industry courting black radio first. He found quick, but adequate success on his second album (The Evolution of Robin Thicke) with the balladic slow burner, “Lost Without U.” And he tried to keep the momentum going with the safe, but satisfying follow-up album, Someone Else. But tragic attempts at R Kelly sex talk (Sex Therapy) derailed the mature grown-folks image that defined his freshmen years and was even considered laughable. The tamer Love After War tried to redeem him, but produced very little fanfare, selling a measly 41,000 on its debut week. But in the world of commercial R&B, at least according to most recent memory, sex has been their drug of choice.

Thicke isn’t a popular proprietor of urban smut, nor is he a believable candidate when he decides to jump into the fray. That’s probably why he hasn’t been battered with certain kinds of encroachment in his comeback campaign. Now that white boy soul is grabbing a hefty percentage of Top 40 listeners, Thicke is reaching a demographic he never had. And with his championing title track, lifted off of his 2013 Blurred Lines album, he’s on the winning end of things. First and foremost, it is the cleverest thing Thicke has ever concocted.  It’s full of rude and borderline obscene behavior (“But you’re a good girl/The way you grab me/Must wanna get nasty”) and it’s quite easy to get the narrative inside the lyrical content twisted, even when he puts out a girl power chant (“You don’t need no papers/That man is not your maker”). But Thicke has developed a formula that attracts the young and the slightly old, the ones that recall the grandeur heard on Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” On the turf, Thicke plays with booty-shaking disco, intoxicating cowbell clatter and MJ-inspired woos. The exercise by itself is enough to make you think Thicke could put blood on the dancefloor. He tries to replicate that dancing machine flavor throughout the first half of the album, and that’s exactly where the album falls a little flat. It becomes a serious challenge for Thicke – a more successful balladeer than uptempo workouts – to develop something as big and brash as “Blurred Lines.” With “Ain’t No Hat 4 That” and the Gap Band-feeling “Get In My Way,” he masquerades around nostalgic riffs that feel good for long drive time commutes and dance floor fodder , but the hooks are heavy laden with lyrics that never seriously stick. And when he tries to beef up his persona using Timbaland-produced, Usher-ready riffs like on “Take It Easy on Me” (where he shoots off a cavalcade of Charlie Wilson-styled melisma; oftentimes not as polished), he struggles to make the song pop. Unlike his previous records, Thicke is surrounded by a posse of industry top dogs waiting to give him a big bone to bury. Sadly, it’s far from being their best work on record. Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am. drops a bare boned “Go Stupid 4 U,” which sounds incomplete, rhythmically challenged (especially with its crafty sampling of Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message”). It also sounds whimsical as he repeats “oh damn” alongside a heavy Nashville-strummed guitar.  On the Kendrick Lamar-featured “Give It 2 U,” producer Dr. Luke stuffs Thicke into big electropop camouflage. It sounds like leftovers of “Boom Boom Pow,” so it’s nothing that inventive to rave about. The Cataracs (Dev, Usher) craft a synthpop jam with “Pressure,” which can be heard on the album’s expanded version. Those looking for Thicke’s more soulful side will cringe at the new adaptions, while others will see it as a neat way for him to explore all sides of the popularity spectrum. On the back end of the disc, Thicke jams the Lumineers’s “Ho Hey” with his own “The Sweetest Love” on “The Good Life,” while the ‘70’s Quiet Storm appeal of “4 the Rest of My Life” may swing its way into Urban AC with the swiftness.

Of all the producers, ProJay – who handles six of the album’s original cuts – knows what works best on Thicke and tries to apply a bit of normalcy to all the hoopla now surrounding Thicke’s instant fame. But even those events aren’t enough to overshadow the Pharrell produced “Blurred Lines,” which remains the only track handled by the “Get Lucky” singer. Still, kudos goes out to Thicke for jumping into reinvention mode and pulling out an album that’s far more interested than his usual. It’s not perfect; we don’t expect it to be considering his track record. But at times, you start to feel like we should take him a little more serious. Is it his best record so far? Only if you like to lose yourself to dance. Other than that, Thicke really needs to start copying Bruno Mars’s lyric sheets. It’s the only thing that will make his music a bit more imaginative.

 


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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