*** (out of 4)
Since Robin Thicke broke through as a songwriter in the late ’90s, he's always hung around the cusp of stardom, never quite breaking through for himself. That never stopped him from hanging out with some real stars though, keeping the company of guys like Lil Wayne, Jay Z and the Neptunes.
So it's fitting that finally, in 2013, when his No. 1 hit "Blurred Lines" earned him a standing invite to all the coolest parties, he had to be dropped off by Pharrell, who is experiencing something of a renaissance himself this year (with help from Daft Punk). "Lines" has been an enduring and surprising hit, leaning on Pharrell's yacht drums and boppy funk while also getting a boost from its controversial music video.
Thicke's sixth studio album shares the single's name and most of its lusty pop longing. He's talked about not taking himself as seriously on this album, that "[he and his wife] wanted to dance again" and wanted the LP to reflect that. This is where "Blurred Lines" differs largely from R&B like Justin Timberlake's "20/20 Experience" from earlier this year: Thicke's work is far more concerned with feelings on the dance floor than off it.
And thanks to production from Dr. Luke, Pharrell, Timbaland and mostly Thicke himself, almost every one of the 11 tracks is steppable, though in different ways.
"Does it feel good?" is not only one of Thicke's refrains but his litmus test here, and he tries it on everything, from a funky two-step on "Ain't No Hat 4 That" to the wobbly, house-inspired "Give It 2 U." The latter was produced by Dr. Luke, co-written by will.i.am and features Kendrick Lamar. Not surprisingly, it's kind of a mess--this kind of no-hands-on-the-wheel raving doesn't suit Thicke.
Despite the implications of the single, there's not much agenda behind "Blurred Lines" the album. It's about its grooves, about a good time, and about guys and girls alternately "giving it to" each other. All of this is great, and Thicke sounds engaged, whether belting out "Oooo La La," a funk cut smooth enough to skate on, or crooning low-key on "Top of the World." Because when you're cutting up the dance floor with that special someone, who needs blurred lines or famous friends?
Adam Lukach is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic
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