Robin Thicke has been releasing pop/R&B material with varying degrees of success for about 10 years now. His first album, 2003’s “A Beautiful World,” made minimal impact, but his second album – “The Evolution of Robin Thicke” – was a huge breakthrough in 2006, reaching #5 on the US Album Charts and #1 on the R&B album charts on the strength of singles “Lost Without U” and “Can U Believe.” Since then, he’s been up and down on the R&B charts, but crossover mass success on the pop charts has been elusive. The closest he came was “Sex Therapy” in 2009, a #1 hit on the R&B charts that stalled at #54 on the Pop Charts.
That, of course, all changed this year. His collaboration with T.I. and Pharrell – “Blurred Lines” - was released in March of this year and quickly shot to the top of the pop charts. It’s become an international smash, and is unquestionably one of the biggest hits of the year. Basically a retake on Marvin Gaye’s #1 single from 1977 "Got To Give It Up" with some catchy added hooks, “Blurred Lines” has been inescapable this summer. Those “hey, hey, hey’s” have been blasting through club and car speakers and headphones for weeks non-stop. It is indeed a catchy tune, a rather cunning recreation of the Marvin Gaye track but with a modern vibe. Sometimes artists catch lightning in a bottle with a single, and this is one of those occasions.
But the question is – what about the rest of the album? Thicke released the “Blurred Lines” LP at the end of June, and it quickly shot to the top of the album charts on the continued strength of its title song. But so far – and it is obviously early in the potential lifespan of the album – nothing else is catching fire.
Second single, “For the Rest of My Life,” borrows heavily from Prince rather than Marvin Gaye, and while it’s a nice enough song, it’s not particularly memorable. As a single thus far it’s done absolutely nothing. Perhaps concerned that they might have a one-hit wonder on their hands, Thicke’s label quickly released the uptempo banger “Give it 2 U,” featuring a guest spot by the up and coming rapper Kendrick Lamar, as the third single. “Give it 2 U” eschews the old-style funk that made “Blurred Lines” so successful and goes for a more modern electro-funk style. It’s catchy and has a strong hook, but so far it isn’t exactly heating up the charts. Perhaps it’s an issue of the title song still sucking all the air out of the marketplace, and radio isn’t ready for a follow-up, but it will be interesting to see if that continues to be the case when “Blurred Lines” starts feeling stale (and it’s already starting).
The rest of the album is mostly more modern-sounding dance-pop with a strong funk/R&B flavor. The vocals are heavily auto-tuned, and the beats sound like they could have come from just about any pop/dance album released in the last few years. “Ooo La La” is probably the strongest of the bunch – it definitely harkens back to a more old-school feel, with nice harmony vocals and a sweet falsetto vocal by Thicke. “Take it Easy on Me” is another strong track, this one in the more modern style. That’s the main problem with “Blurred Lines,” the album. It never decides what it wants to be. Had Thicke stuck with the older-style, retro inspired material and had the confidence to put out that kind of album in support of “Blurred Lines,” it would have a more cohesive sound. Unfortunately it seems either he or the label decided to hedge their bets, and make sure there were a couple tracks that would sound perfectly at home on a new Ne-Yo or Usher album. And frankly, most of the rest of the material on the album is good, but there is nothing even remotely on par with the title track. “Feel Good” is one of the better dance tracks, and definitely has strong remix potential. “Get in the Way” is another old-school sounding track, but lyrically and thematically it just isn’t that interesting. “Blurred Lines” the album is unfocused and unsure of itself – and so far, the results speak for itself. The title song is, as of this writing, still the only hit. That may change, and by this time next year we may be talking about how many singles from this album rocketed up the charts. But I’m gonna go out on a limb and predict that won’t be the case. “Blurred Lines,” derivative as it may be, is a classic single. The rest of the album just doesn’t stand up to it.