Star Trak/Interscope soul man Robin Thicke has released his latest full-length, Blurred Lines. The singer's sixth album in total, the LP is the follow-up to 2011's Love After War. The project packs 14 tracks' worth of original material, including "For the Rest of My Life," "Give It 2 U," "Take It Easy on Me," "Go Stupid 4 U" and the smash-hit title track.
A star-studded array of collaborators join Thicke throughout the set, including 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell Williams and T.I. In addition to beats by Thicke himself, the LP boasts production by Cirkut, The Cataracs, Dr. Luke, Jerome “Jroc” Harmon, Pharrell, Projay, Timbaland, will.i.am and more.
Blurred Lines Album Review
Certain musicians, the best kinds, have the ability to express all sides of themselves, contradictions and all, while still coming off as authentic. Thicke may be a musician, but he’s not one that possesses the gift to display the complexity of his most human attributes. His latest album instead consistently presents conflicting ideas both lyrically and sonically, illuminating Thicke’s shortcomings as an artist. In spite of that, the album contains enough soulful gems to keep the non-Top 40 listener engaged, and maybe even happy.
Lead single and title track Blurred Lines perfectly illustrates the forced attempts at sex appeal that Thicke sometimes demonstrates on the album. The song was plainly crafted with intent to shoot up the charts, and in that regard, it is a success. Otherwise, a funky cowbell dominated beat by Pharrell and a typically smooth T.I. verse are wasted by Thicke’s downright unlikeable presence on the song. The record is a microcosm for the sort of flat pick up lines that Thicke endeavors throughout the album, many of which are an attempt at humor, but fail to illicit any genuine response.
Moving past the even more bland and radio-centric second track, Take it Easy on Me, Thicke gets back into his comfort zone with Ooo La La and Ain’t No Hat 4 That. The man does possess some phenomenal pipes, in the same whispery vein of Justin Timberlake, only with a more capable range. This is Thicke’s bread and butter: Michael Jackson-esque dance floor burners where his voice flutters over the horns and punctuates the bells and whistles of the instrumental.
This brief flurry of soulful delight is quickly replaced by the cookie-cutter, soon to be smash hit Give It 2 U. A characteristically dense and technically impeccable Kendrick Lamar verse does little to save the song from a tired beat from pop maestro Dr. Luke that seems to have been found on the cutting room floor of a Britney Spears session, while Thicke hits us with some witty poetry: “I got...a little Thicke for yah, a big kiss for yah, I got a hit for yah, big dick for yah…” Really poignant stuff. Thankfully the highlight of the album, 4 the Rest of My Life, provides a much needed reprieve a few tracks later. Thicke weaves a tale of when he first met his wife, actress Paula Patton, as a teenager and their shared love in its budding stages. Just as he and his wife proved to be the perfect match, his vocals match flawlessly with the orchestral, jazzy foundation.
At 36, Robin Thicke knows who he is. Both as a man, and an entertainer. He knows his comfort zone and his weaknesses. He understands what a casual, top of the iTunes chart browsing fan is looking for, and what his dedicated fans who have been there since his bluesy beginnings are looking for. Blurred Lines mostly hits its mark when aiming for these two very different audiences, but the interspersing of slimy, pop songs with smooth as butter, tasteful odes comes across as awkward. It’s hard to believe a man who is so direct with his sexual come-ons one moment while romantically seducing the next. The blatant, though successful, radio attempts pale in comparison to the groovy soul. Maybe on the next go ‘round Thicke will successfully bridge his artistic ambitions with the whims of the masses, but in the meantime I’m satisfied with skipping past the forced tunes and vibing out to the ones only Thicke could pull off.
DJBooth Rating - 3 Spins