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Let’s talk about Robin Thicke

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So, today we actually get the whole album. Yes, it’s called Blurred Lines, and the everywhere single is the first track on the record. Frankly, we’ve been wondering what else he’s got. Sure, the song is so damn catchy (Duh, ’cause it practically bites Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” whole) and because of its ubiquity, every human on earth hears it and wants to get down. Take it from us—the recently spirited away Review Publishing team, who took a dinner cruise last week on the Spirit of Philadelphia, watched basic folks (mostly over 40) rush the floor when that Gaye-style hook came through that oh-so-whack DJ’s speakers. He followed it up with a floor-clearing choice in “Baby Got Back,” but that’s a whole ‘nother story. That damn video! All those titties! He’s been causing a bit of controversy with the song/subsequent video’s slightly inflammatory depiction of women as sex objects, with the constant refrain of “You know you want it.” Didn’t know that the short was directed by a woman, right? Neither did we until we read this NY Times feature.

We’ve been pretty firmly on Team Thicke for years. While 2011’s Love After War was a little whack, 2009’s Sex Therapy was goddamn stellar. That record is pure, sexy fun—and that’s what he’s trying to capitalize on with Blurred Lines, and, we’d like to argue, he pretty much succeeds. The single’s his breakthrough commercial hit, no question, because he’s never seen this kind of pop appeal manifest in the ways of sales. And that’s pretty telling, isn’t it? In a quite sad way. We’ve loved his work for years, and it takes a sexually scandalous and controversial chorus ‘n video to make people listen up and pay attention. It tells a slightly sad story: be overly sexy, snag a few headlines, and you’re on your way to the biggest success of your life.

The rest of the record, if you were wondering, is listenable on Spotify today, and it’s not all Gaye ripoffs and Top 40 chart grabs. Thicke’s always excelled at using that beautiful and gentle falsetto of his to great effect. He—like Maxwell, Raphael Saadiq, D’Angelo and Cee Lo Green—has that uncanny ability to open his mouth and transport a listener to a different time. Old-school R&B is so often characterized by soulful romanticism, visceral physicality and maybe, sometimes, overtly sexual content. Thicke is happily married to actress Paula Patton, and while he sometimes sings of lust and desire, we forget that songs and songwriting can be fictional. They can be expressions of days past. A man can be over-the-moon in love and monogamous, but not everyone wants to hear about how successful his domestic situation is. What about the girls who want to be fed the fantasy that maybe Thicke will one day fuck them? What about the guys who want to keep fantasizing that his effete, sensual sensitivity means he’s emotionally mature enough to dabble in a Kinsey slide? As a successful artist, you’ve gotta keep those tropes raging.

Anyhow, it’s worth a listen. The first few cuts that follow the opening title track are strong: “Take It Easy On Me,” “Ooh La La” and “Ain’t No Hat 4 That.” Too bad we don’t really get down with numbers as words and words being represented by numerals because there are three more like that: “Give It 2 U,” “Go Stupid 4 U” and “4 The Rest Of My Life.” Luckily, you can’t see numerals as words when they’re being sung. Now that would be really annoying.


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