The methodology here is straightforward. Review the biggest hits as they hit. So we’re starting at the top.
single: “Blurred Lines”
artist: Robin Thicke feat. T.I. + Pharrell
Starting at the top is hard. It’s all been said.
Not that Robin Thicke knows anything about starting at the top. He has had quite an organic career for a showbiz kid (dad is Alan Thicke from “Growing Pains”), building R&B cred over the past half decade before catapulting to the top of the pop charts this summer with this singular slab of rhythm.
That’s why it pains me somewhat to see that his first megabit is plagued with controversy, from the alleged “rapey”-ness of the lyrics, to the grumbles that it borrows too heavily from Marvin Gaye‘s “Got to Give It Up,” to the unfortunate duet with Miley at the VMAs.
Robin has worked diligently, head down, crafting solid music and garnering the most unqualified black fan base support of any white artist since Teena Marie. He deserves better. On the other hand, he did film the accompanying music video with topless dancers. Sigh.
All bantering aside, this groove is as undeniable as a Tina Turner rocker, a Celine Dion ballad, or a Beyonce–anything. That is to say, you may dislike it, but you can’t undo its particular magic. Robin is one of the best studio vocalists in the industry, infusing just the right degree of silky falsetto and cat-call asides into Pharrell’s effortless production.
Before all the above issues clouded my perception of the song, I thought the joke here was that after Justin Timberlake was accused of copying Robin with the vibe of The 20/20 Experience, “Blurred Lines” didn’t read so much as a sibling of Marvin Gaye’s disco strut as it did a tongue-in-cheek knockoff of “Sexyback,” with its zany production cuts and vocal U-turns.
Alas, I also thought “Suit & Tie” was a rip-off of Janet Jackson‘s “Funky Big Band,” so I guess my ears are out of practice after two years not reviewing any records. (No one agrees with me on either count.)
Either that, or I’m a singular genius.