Well, it’s taken the mainstream over 10 years to discover Robin Thicke and my word how they’ve taken to him. This ‘Blurred Lines’ album proudly sits atop the album charts world-wide, fuelled in no small way by the publicity surrounding the lyrics of the title cut along with the words on a number of other items too. Soul folks, of course, already know all about Mr. T. He debuted with his particular take on blue-eyed soul way back in 2003 with the ‘Beautiful World’ album, but before that he’d written songs for people like Brandy, Mya, Christine Aguilera and even Michael Jackson (Thicke’s ‘Fall Again’ is on ‘Invincible’) . Four more long players followed –each boasting a clutch of strong soul outings, culminating in 2008’s enchanting ‘Magic’ – a Radio 2 “Record Of The Week” no less and utilised in a TV ad for an expensive brand of watches. Despite that the mainstream still didn’t latch on… till now and maybe because of that ( and the fact that some broadsheet commentators are suggesting that Robin’s just aping Justin Timberlake… even though Robin was active in the biz well before Justin) , soul collectors might be tempted to ignore this album. Well, they’d ignore it at their peril, ‘cos like all Rob’s previous outings there are some fine blue-eyed soul outings herein.
Let’s point you straight to them. ‘Ooo La La’ is a sweet, mid-paced soul groove while soul dancers (if they can get round their snobbish prejudices) would love the crunchy ‘Get In My Way’, the bouncy ‘Ain’t No Hat 4 That’ and the sweeping ‘Feel Good’. Best soul cut though is the shimmering ballad that is ‘4 The Rest Of My Life’. Robin’s falsetto pleads perfectly above a setting that is Philly-style soul for the 21st century. If this one (and the other 4) had appeared on some obscure indie soul album, the soul snobs would be drooling. Yes, they are that good!
That then leaves us with the notorious title cut. You’ll know it by now – a typical Pharrell-crafted groove with rap from T. I. – it’s notorious because of its aggressive, sexual lyrics. You’ll already have made up your own minds here – but just to remind you that it’s based loosely on ‘Got To Give It Up’ from Marvin Gaye – revered by the soul world and someone never backward in coming forward. Remember too that sexually suggestive lyrics (implicit or implied) are as old as music itself. Soul archivists can point you to hundreds of examples… try Etta James’ ‘Roll With Me Henry’ for starters while even Princess Anne knew that ‘Ride Your Pony’ wasn’t really about equestrianism!
The lyrics on ‘Give It 2 Me’ are much more direct and soul people will reach for the skip button here because of the rap from Kendrick Lamar. I’d Advise them to do the same for the electro pop ‘Take It Easy On Me’ and the poppy ‘The Good Life’. However, don’t let this turn you away from what is a great contemporary soul album.