When Andy Murray prepared to face Novak Djokovic in this year’s Wimbledon final, Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines was the track he turned to for a pregame boost. It seemed slightly inapt – blurred lines would make tennis awfully difficult – but then who hasn’t been playing that song recently? Thicke is suddenly everywhere.
Like Murray, the Los Angeles-born singer spent many years as a nearly man, seemingly fated never to reach No 1, before the unforeseen surge. The 36-year-old has progressed from songwriter-for-hire to arguably the world’s most talked-about pop star today, as that single topped the charts worldwide. Indeed, there has been talk of Murray appearing in a remake of its video.
Admittedly much of the hype was generated by the sleazy (some would say wildly inappropriate) nature of the original video. That was a rare controversy for the happily married singer, the son of the much-loved actor Alan, who was no mean songwriter himself, having co-composed the theme to the 1980s sitcom Diff’rent Strokes.
Thicke Senior co-writes a song here too, but is quite a departure from the other guests. The presence of Pharrell Williams and Timbaland and the rappers TI and Kendrick Lamar does feel awkwardly akin to the school geek inviting the cool kids to his house party. Thankfully, Thicke has lined up beats that would encourage pretty much anyone to get down.
Blurred Lines is a straight-ahead, worry-free dance album, albeit one that lurches repeatedly from past to future, as if soundtracking a film about a disco time-traveller. The title track sets the tone with its Marvin Gaye sample – from 1977’s Got to Give it Up – plus hints of Prince and Gorillaz. Ooo La La and Ain’t No Hat 4 That – the collaboration with his father – have enjoyable echoes of Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson, even a familiar falsetto yelp, while 4 the Rest of My Life is so redolent of sultry old soul crooners that you marvel at how he kept a straight face.
Interspersed among these retro gems are thrilling thrusts of future disco, notably Timbaland’s great robotic groove on Take it Easy on Me. Give it 2 U is pleasingly reminiscent of Kelis’ majestic Acapella, although a profane contribution from the increasingly ubiquitous Kendrick Lamarr feels decidedly out of place on such a feel-good record. Buy the clean version: these Blurred Lines should be for everyone.
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