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Music Reviews

MPAA Rating
R&B, Pop
Debuted at No. 1.
Record Label
Star Trak, Interscope
July 30, 2013
Adam R. Holz
Robin Thicke

Robin Thicke

Blurred Lines

Robin Thicke (son of actor and musician Alan Thicke) has enjoyed a steady if under-the-radar career pumping out a falsetto-infused and '70s-inspired blend of R&B, disco, dance and funk for more than a decade. But this year he hit the big time with the catchy title track from this sixth album. The song spent virtually the entire summer of 2013 at No. 1, despite—or perhaps because of—controversy surrounding its explicit, nudity filled video, as well as lyrics that some have interpreted as winking at rape.

So just how blurry is the rest of this release?

Pro-Social Content

"Get in My Way" is an optimistic song about the fruit of determination: "Working hard, like there's a gun in my back/I be battin' 1,000 with a weight on my bat/ … The ribbon hits my chest/The wind at my back/the feeling of elation running all down my back/My feet hardly hit the ground/I feel I'm walking on clouds/I did it/No fear, no more." Similarly, "Top of the World" tells of a young woman who, though bullied when she was young, has worked hard and become successful.

On "Ain't No Hat for That," Thicke points out that a woman in a failing relationship is more interested in materialism than emotional vulnerability, hinting that such a selfish stance may contribute to the couple's problems. "Feel Good" finds a man pondering whether his gal will stay committed to him even if he were struggling instead of successful, leaving the impression that indeed she should. On "For the Rest of My Life," a young man steps up to the lifelong commitment plate and promises, "For the rest of my life, I know I wanna be yours/For the rest of my life, for you I'm gonna be strong." Album closer "The Good Life" finds Thicke praising his partner (actress Paula Patton) for sticking with him through thick and thin.

Objectionable Content

"Blurred Lines" finds a guy plying a "good girl" with alcohol as he tries to coax her into going further sexually, lyrics that The Daily Beast's Tricia Romano describes as "kind of rapey." "Good girl/I know you want it," Robin riffs, "You're a good girl/Can't let it get past me/ … Talk about getting blasted/I hate these blurred lines/I know you want it/ … The way you grab me/Must wanna get nasty/Go ahead, get at me." Rapper T.I.'s too-graphic-to-print contribution finds him grotesquely imagining violent anal sex. He also evokes prostitution imagery with, "So I'm just watchin' and waitin'/For you to salute the true big pimpin'/Not many women can refuse this pimpin'."

That kind of sexualized, objectifying language is found on other tracks too. "Take It Easy on Me" lustfully intones, "When I look through your dress/I want your cherry pie." (The song also references drinking Patrón tequila and smoking marijuana.) "Ooo La La" repeatedly describes the entirety of a woman's appeal as "that thing": "You gave me some of that thing/ … I fell in love with that thing/ … Can't get enough of that thing."

"Give It 2 U" coos about Thicke's "big" sexual anatomy becoming a girl's gift. Kendrick Lamar's explicit verse on that track involves graphic references to oral sex and vulgar slang, as well as "compliments" for a woman's "a‑‑." Meanwhile, "Feel Good" brings up the topic of orgasms. "Go Stupid 4 U" repeats "oh d‑‑n" about 20 times, again objectifying a woman's looks ("Sexy from the front, aha/Sexy from the back/ … You're so hot, girl, oooh/ … Give me some of that"). "For the Rest of My Life" has a young man confessing, "I stole my daddy's car" to meet his teenage honey for a late-night booty call.

A successful woman on "Top of the World" turns to drugs to deal with her loneliness. And beyond the profanity already reported, various songs include several uses of "d‑‑n," "h‑‑‑" and "a‑‑," along with one s-word.

Summary Advisory

Robin Thicke says blurred. I say smudged, messed up and mangled.

There are a handful of nice moments about working hard and being committed to our relationships here. But what we get much more often is arrested-development leering at women who are deemed (merely) conquests to be used and discarded. Over and over again, we hear lines like, "I fell in love with that thing," "Give me some of that," "Not many women can refuse this pimpin'" and, of course, "I know you want it."

Hopefully, an honest, careful look at these often-degrading lyrics will inspire more than just a few would-be listeners to respond, "Actually, Robin, I don't want it."