Sunday, September 15, 2013

Only if you like your R&B rough and raucous

album review

Artist: Robin Thicke 
Album: Blurred Lines 

Not only has 'Blurred Lines' been one of the most successful songs of the year, but it has also been the track that has courted the most controversy. Everything from its lyrics to its music videos have come under scrutiny, and Miley Cyrus' by-now-infamous antics during the performance of this song at the MTV Video Music Awards last month has taken the track to an even higher level of ubiquity.

Its notoriety has also propelled singer Robin Thicke to global stardom. A decade after making his debut with the infectious 'When I Get You Alone' and releasing five relatively successful albums without causing much of a furore, the singer is now ruffling feathers with his latest record, Blurred Lines, that not only shares its name but also various other characteristics with its globally hit lead single and title track.

An amalgam of R&B, funk, and soul placed on a canvas of electronic beats and catchy pop hooks, the record puts forth a set of eleven slickly produced songs immodestly bathed in commercial ambition. Some of the industry's biggest names - including Pharrell, Timbaland,, and Dr. Luke - are on hand to apply a glossy sheen to the material, and for the most part they make these songs sonically catchy and chart ready.

There is a mix of throwback and contemporary vibes on offer here, and Thicke's influences - from Marvin Gaye to Prince - are apparent as you go along. Whether he's doing his best Michael Jackson impersonation ('Ain't No Hat 4 That') or taking a page out of Justin Timberlake's book (like on the bonus track 'Put Your Lovin' On Me', or just about any other track on the album), Robin Thicke knows how to put together a catchy tune, which is something he does repeatedly over the course of this album. To their detriment though, he pairs these tunes with lyrics that range from questionable to downright distasteful. Thicke, who wrote or co-write every song on the record, hurls crude remarks, innuendo laden quips, and cheesy pickup lines at the listener for much of the album, mistaking misogyny and sleaziness for suavity, often blurring the line between playfulness and degradation.

There is no doubt about Robin Thicke's vocal abilities, and his soulfulness has been an asset throughout his career. And while his latest attempt to make a mainstream splash has been phenomenally successful, lurching down sleaze lane (coupled with his alleged personal foibles that have recently become tabloid fodder) probably isn't going to win him much respect, if that is something that he in any way craves.

Blurred Lines has made sure that the singer no longer resides just below the radar, but it has also left some of us wishing it came with some deeper or at least less denigrating subject matter. It's lively and upbeat, full of dance tunes and club jams, but if you are likely to be put off by crass lyrical content, then this album definitely isn't for you.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 15th September, 2013

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