With its breezy funk hook, liberal use of cowbell, and carefree call-and-response vocals, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is the kicky theme song one might write if one were to produce a madcap sitcom about rapey bros. (Note: BAD IDEA.) It’s also, arguably, the single of the summer—in spite of lyrics like “That man is not your maker / That’s why I’m gon’ take you / Good girl! / I know you want it,” which have deservedly been the subject of torrents of criticism. Or possibly, probably, because of those lyrics, given the general tenor of pop culture right now. For his part, the unctuous R&B singer-songwriter claims the song is “funny,” that his lyrics have been “misconstrued,” that he and collaborator Pharrell are happily married and have “only respect for women,” and, most insanely, that the song is “a feminist movement within itself.” Yes, Thicke’s a total knob whose sexual maturity seems stalled around 16—the year he met Paula Patton, now his wife. Here, as on other albums, he writes feverishly and compulsively about the ins and outs of doing it in fascinatingly anatomical terms: The slithery “Go Stupid 4 U,” perhaps Thicke’s answer to “Hallelujah,” opens with repeated vocalizations of “Oh, damn,” over a shimmery samba-soul guitar line, parses the angles from which his paramour looks sexy, climaxes (sorry) with this amazingly self-referential line: “Girl, I wrote a song about you / Designed a little part that reminds me of your ass / Sexy from the back.” Yup. And yet the production on this album, in many cases, is as compelling, energetic, and infinitely listenable as Thicke’s verbal offerings are jaw-droppingly terrible. “Give It 2 U,” which could be a Circus-era Britney track, is redeemed by a subwoofer-rattling bassline courtesy of pop wizard Dr. Luke and the welcome presence of Kendrick Lamar; “Ooo La La” is pleasantly boppy disco pop. Musically, Thicke’s the missing link between Sade and Jamiroquai; he’s perfected a kind of absurdly literal boudoir jam, the satin-sheet counterpart to the absurdly literal party rock that dominated commercial radio two summers ago (LMFAO are still laughing). Thicke’s breathless use of numerals in place of prepositions suggests he has aspirations of being the millennial answer to Prince; his oddly endearing combo of slick hooks and and an utter lack of game, however, brands him as the Alan Thicke of 21st-century R&B.
Playlist picks “Give It 2 U (feat. Kendrick Lamar),” “4 the Rest of My Life,” “Go Stupid 4 U”