The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 2, 2013

Jeremiah Tucker: Not much darkness found in Thicke's 'Blurred Lines'

JOPLIN, Mo. — A few weeks ago I asserted that Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" had the song of the summer race sewn up for 2013. That was perhaps premature.

Like the scrawny nerd who got sand kicked in his face then returned to the beach the following summer with calf implants, second-tier R&B artist Robin Thicke has risen from genre obscurity to dominate the charts this summer with his star-assisted single "Blurred Lines."

While It's tempting to label Thicke a poor man's Justin Timberlake, this week he released the kind of album, also titled "Blurred Lines," that many had hoped Timberlake's "20/20" would be -- a fun Michael Jackson-indebted dance-pop record. Even more unexpected is that Thicke, the son of OG dork Alan Thicke, best known as the dad from '80s sitcom "Growing Pains," has earned himself a bad-boy reputation based on this single.

Most of Thicke's newfound notoriety is because of the music video for "Blurred Lines" that features a trio of topless models goofily interacting with Thicke and his guest stars Pharrell and T.I., the tone closer to a NSFW episode of "Laugh-In" than your average pro-forma sexist rap video. Others have accused the song's lyrics of containing a whiff of rape.

I feel like it's worth noting that Thicke began dating his wife when he was 16 years old. If that's not boring enough, he also comes off in his videos as slightly less sexy and dangerous than Stefan Urquelle, the alter-ego of Steve Urkel from "Family Matters," after he drinks his "cool juice."

If Thicke qualifies as controversial, I feel like we're setting the bar pretty low here. But fair enough. Let's consult the song directly:

0:06 -- I'm pretty sure that repeating half-second "whoo" is a Michael Jackson sample. If it is, I bet it cost more than I'll make in a decade.

0:10 -- This groove is so slick. Pharrell, who produced this track and also appears on "Get Lucky," is really having himself a banner year.

0:19-0:35 -- So Thicke is hitting on a girl now, but either she can't tell he's hitting on her or she's ignoring him. (As previously stated, Thicke is a bit of a square, so I'm assuming the latter.) Regardless, he claims it's making him go "out of my mind." So far, pretty standard "bro feeling randy" stuff.

0:36-0:50 -- To the bridge ... so now he's telling the girl her husband or boyfriend tried to "domesticate her" and he's here to "liberate her." I'm guessing it's not by giving her feminist texts and paying for her to go back to school.

0:51-1:21 -- At the chorus now. I bet this is where most critics plant their "rapey" arguments. Addressing the "good girl," Thicke does moan "I know you want it" and laments those "blurred lines." Creepy. But he also ends the chorus with "the way you grab me, must want to get nasty -- go ahead, get at me," which seems to leave taking it to the next level up to the girl.

1:30-1:37 -- "I feel so lucky, you want to hug me" That's kind of sweet. "What rhymes with hug me?" Bug tea? Lug fee? Rugby?

1:40 -- I also just noticed the music never changes. It's a continuous loop. The groove is the entire song.

2:22 -- Oh boy, it's T.I. Until I saw this video, I honestly thought he was still in prison. I will say he was my favorite part of the music video though. His rudimentary dancing was phenomenal.

2:37 -- T.I., buddy, why would a girl look you up next time she's passing through after you just promised to "tear" her butt "in two"? Prison has changed you.

2:59 -- T.I.'s verse ends with the ominous warning, "I'm a nice guy, but don't get confused -- you gettin' it." But, to be fair, he also said he "would watch and wait" for her to "salute the truly pimping." I think he's just extremely confident that his pimping will be the pimping she chooses to salute.

3:20 -- Now Thicke and his girl are getting high on Jamaican weed as a prelude to the bedroom stuff, and we're back to the hook.

4:05 -- I just realized Pharrell contributed almost nothing vocally to this song, aside from the occasional "everybody get up." Pharrell is cool.

Conclusion: I tend to believe Thicke's stated interpretation that the "blurred lines" of the song's title refers to the thin distinction between a good girl and a bad girl, between boring sex and exciting sex.

Also, musically, this song doesn't have a hint of darkness to it. It feels too light and bouncy to support the rape interpretation, nor does Thicke strike me as the kind of artist to include subversive lyrics.

But, whatever, I'm a dude. I'm not going to tell women who find it offensive that it's not. I'll just remind everyone that Chris Brown is still making music.

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