In the lead up to the release of Blurred Lines, the sixth studio album by American R&B singer Robin Thicke, the first single attracted controversy from its music video for featuring nude models and has been criticized of promoting rape and misogyny. However this controversy hasn’t stopped the song from being a major success, with the music video achieving millions of views on you tube per day at one point and hitting the number one spot in more than 14 different countries. Fans of Thicke will notice a more poppy sound than previous releases as it features a star studded cast of guest producers, writers, and performers including Timbaland, Pharell Williams, will.i.am, 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar, and T.I.
The title track opens the album with promise with a beat that is undoubtedly Pharrell with its syncopated cowbell and funky synths proving that the producer really can do no wrong. However, the song falls flat due to weak lyrics as Thicke tries to come across as a smooth talking ladies’ man but ends up sounding a bit corny as he delivers lyrics that read more like pick-up lines. I thought it couldn’t get worse, and then T.I. started rapping. While he was writing his verse T.I. must have asked himself, “I wonder how times I can rhyme the word ass?” while reading an encyclopedia of rap clichés. It’s a real shame that bad lyrics ruin this song that features what is a suberb beat by Pharrell Williams.
The disco bounce of tracks “Ooo La La” and “Ain’t No Hat 4 That” are infectious tunes which are standouts on this album. Then comes the absolute worst song on the album (and possibly of the year) “Give it 2 U” during which Thicke bluntly describes how he has “got a big dick for you” and features an electro house beat I swear I’ve heard a thousand times before. The dirty lyrics end up falling flat and sound more like phone sex, as they lack any sort of humor or wordplay.
The only ballad on the album “The Rest of my Life” breaks up the flow by delivering a catchy modern R&B and feels more like something that Thicke’s voice fits with. The hip hop tinged “Top of the World” starts strong but fails to charm as the song suffers from monotony. Closing the album is “The Good Life”, a mid-tempo piano driven retro pop tune is another decent cut off this album.
The real problem is that while the album does offer a mix of dance pop, soul, R&B, and disco it doesn’t present any of those sounds in a unique way and seems content doing things that have been done before. If you ignore the bad lyrics and you do get a decent collection of fun danceable pop music, but this is hard to do when vocals are really the centerpiece of every song on the album. Blurred Lines is a forgettable album as it lacks anything that makes it stand out.
This all begs the question of whether contemporary R&B needs another performer satisfied with being run of the mill when there are artists possessing more interesting vocals (i.e. Timberlake and Miguel) and pushing the genre into new sonic territory( i.e. Frank Ocean and The Weeknd) ?