For many, the name Robin Thicke meant very little before the American R&B artist took the charts by storm this year with his megahit Blurred Lines, with Pharrell Williams. The song – which made it to Number 1 in 14 countries, including the UK – was not only devilishly catchy, it also came with a controversial video featuring female models wandering around in next to nothing (Thicke and Pharrell were, of course, clothed). The combination was deadly, despite the fact that the video and the song were seen as misogynistic and offensive.
However, Blurred Lines was not the beginning for Thicke. Rather, it was the first single off his sixth studio album, of the same name. Starting off as a songwriter for other artists, including Brandy, 3T and Christina Aguilera, the 36-year-old has always been on the edge of success, until finally hitting on the winning formula. Previous releases had some commercial and critical acclaim, but all paled in comparison to the reaction that greeted Blurred Lines.
But when a song achieves the sort of airplay that Blurred Lines has enjoyed, it is often the case that the album fails to live up to expectations. That is undoubtedly the case with Thicke’s return. The album leads off with the showpiece title track, before proceeding to turn in a series of sub-par funk pop songs, which draw unfortunate comparisons with Justin Timberlake.
It’s something Thicke would have probably wanted to avoid, as Timberlake is in a league of his own when it comes to this particular genre, but there are just too many similarities. Take It Easy On Me features long-time Timberlake collaborator Timbaland and it tells, but the song is unable to really grab the listener, despite having a serviceable chorus. It’s not helped by the queasy lyricism, either, as Thicke purrs: “I’ll rip through all your fancy clothes/I wanna shop for your underwear”.
Give It 2 U, one of several songs that are irritatingly written with text speak, is another that sounds like a more club-orientated Timberlake rip-off, although Kendrick Lamar’s verse does provide a welcome break. Thicke’s lyrics also continue to have a concerning tone, as he tastelessly sings about his “big dick”. Then again, when rappers do it no one blinks an eye, so why should Thicke’s boasting be any different?
Well, the fact that it’s relentless throughout Blurred Lines doesn’t help, but there is also something very creepy and stalker-ish about it all. “It’s on tonight, ain’t nobody gonna get in my way,” he sings on Get In My Way, which is only remarkable because it sounds so incredibly dated. Then there’s the ridiculously cheesy, acoustic-led Go Stupid 4 U, where Thicke sings: “Girl I wrote a song about you/ designed a little part that reminds me of your ass.”
The song Blurred Lines may not have been any better lyric wise – with Thicke repeatedly asserting “I know you want it” – but at least it had a memorable backing track, which was laid down by man-of-the-moment Pharrell Williams and heavily influenced by Marvin Gaye’s Got To Give It Up. This is not the case for the rest of the album, with songs like Top Of The World and Feel Good leaving no lasting impression, just complete indifference.
That said, there are a couple of moments where Thicke remembers his R&B roots and successfully manages to invoke memories of Michael Jackson in his prime, with Ooo La La and Ain’t No Hat 4 That managing to hold their own on the LP. But when it comes down to it, Blurred Lines does not deliver on the commercial promise suggested by its lead single. Robin Thicke has talent, but there is little here to convince that he is anything other than, at best, a career musician.