In 2007, Robin Thicke went from promising singer-songwriter to a performer on the cusp of stardom with a million-selling album, “The Evolution of Robin Thicke,” and the hit single “Lost Without You.” But since then, he’s been an R&B journeyman – always someone else’s opening act, an artist who couldn’t strike platinum twice.
Then the title track from “Blurred Lines” (Star Trak/Interscope) hit, and from the first syncopated cowbell beat and Pharrell Williams’ demand, “Everyone get up,” Thicke found himself in the thick of it once again. The 2 million-selling single continues to fill dancefloors as it vies with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” for the song that’ll forever be associated with the summer of 2013.
But the song’s dunderheaded lyrics, and the topless dancers in its accompanying video, threw up some warning flags. Thicke always played the smooth ladies’ man in his songs, his slick veneer softened by neediness. That vibe clearly wasn’t connecting anymore, so a decade into his career, he’s singing with more swagger, the feathery falsetto now delivering pick-up lines that sound like they were culled from the comments section on a porn site. Explicitness has increasingly become the language of pop, but even by these relaxed standards, Thicke scrapes bottom with his single-entendre come-on’s. These might be tolerable if they evinced at least a teensy bit of cleverness or humor, but no such luck.
Tune out the words, and you get a solid dance-pop album, with only one ballad – “The Rest of My Life” – to interrupt the flow. Williams, Timbaland, Dr. Luke and Pro J produce, and T.I. and Kendrick Lamar add vocal glitter. The elegant disco-era swing of “Ain’t No Hat 4 That” and “Ooo La La,” the electro bounce of “Give it 2 U,” the undulating “Feel Good” – it’s an album that discourages sitting still. Too bad the icky lyrics ruin the mood.