Spin Cycle

“Blurred Lines” is the song of the summer.

That’s not mere conjecture; that’s almost scripture at this point. “Blurred Lines” is a big old Smash Hit, the kind we only get a couple of a year, the kind that everyone knows the words to. They know T.I.’s vowel-heavy guest rap, Pharrell’s every “whoo!”, the sly way Robin Thicke himself barely conceals a chuckle as he croons “what rhymes with hug me?”… the song’s massive, and why shouldn’t it be? With a funky, freewheeling spirit and a “Got to Give it Up”-meets-“Finally” vibe, it’s the sort of song that seems predestined to break through.

And hey, Mr. Thicke’s certainly put his time in. Ever since rocking that Ted Neeley-in-Jesus Christ Superstar hair-n’-goatee combo for his “Fifth of Beethoven”-sampling introductory single “When I Get You Alone”, his brand of throwback-heavy r&b has been subtly sticking to the ribs for a full decade now. He’s enjoyed modest success – most notably the bossa nova-inflected “Lost Without U” back in 2004 – but has gone more or less unnoticed by the public at large until now. Blurred Lines, buoyed by a lead single with a startling amount of staying power, a nationwide obsession with blue-eyed soul in the wake of Justin Timberlake’s re-emergence, and a cultural passion for anything remotely Michael Jackson-sounding (from Daft Punk to Bruno Mars), seems to be the turning point in Thicke’s already-accomplished career.

Does it deserve to be? That’s a fair question, and in reality, a fairly negligible one – is Blurred Lines a dumbing-down of Robin’s signature sound, or merely an accessible version of the same? It’s the latter, I’d venture, a non-threatening but likeable romp through pop-soul’s finest moments. It doesn’t get quite as interesting or experimental as, say, Miguel’s album from last year (or even JT’s record), but it makes the head nod agreeably; Blurred Lines is, therefore, an album that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do.

And what it sets out to do is simply have a good time. At this, it succeeds admirably; the inescapable title track is a harbinger of the rest of the album in spirit (if not in sound), and Blurred Lines duly brings the breezy, sex-obsessed dance music. “Ooh La La” is a springy ’90s rollerskate jam with a disco chaser; “Get In My Way” has a terrific, funk-guitar-laced “Caribbean Queen” vibe; “Feel Good” spaces out with modern EDM beats and a “Glad You Came” escalating chord structure. When Thicke breaks it down – as he inevitably does, considering his relative corner on the slow-jam market – the results are generally nice, particularly on the stately, coo-ing Prince jam “4 the Rest of My Life” and the swaying, waltzing, Sam Cooke-goosed “The Good Life”. Thicke’s loverman bluster is infinitely charming, but when asked to put up or shut up, the guy extolls the virtues of monogamy and loyalty like nobody’s business.

If Blurred Lines has any chinks in its armor, it’s the occasional foray into modern electro-pop; Timbaland’s fingerprints are abundantly evident in “Take It Easy On Me”, which trades playful charm for BPMs, “Give It 2 U” sounds great during Robin’s soaring falsetto chorus and guest Kendrick Lamar’s typically fleet-footed rap, but flags during its droning, dick-obsessed verses.

Still, Blurred Lines is an appropriately upbeat home for its summery title track. Hopefully, a full album of MJ throwback jams is on the docket in Robin Thicke’s near future, but until that day, this’ll do nicely.

Grade: B

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