With "Blurred Lines" (Interscope), Robin Thicke out-Justins Timberlake at every turn.
His old-school soul references are better. His falsetto is finer. And when he goes for the raunchy club anthems, he really goes for them. (Yes, Thicke gets even more R-rated than the album's omnipresent title track.)
More importantly, Thicke establishes himself as a neo-soul hit-making force. He's a new-millennium Kool & the Gang on "Get in My Way," a quiet-storm Prince on "4 the Rest of My Life" and a sexed-up Stevie Wonder on "Ain't No Hat 4 That." In other words, Thicke will be rolling out R&B radio hits for months to come.
Sure, there are places where his playa shtick ends up being a bit too much, like that guy at the club with one too many shirt buttons undone and wearing a bit too much cologne. But he does try to cut that attitude with a bit of humor, especially on the boasting "Give It 2 U," featuring Kendrick Lamar and an undeniable groove laid down by will.i.am and Dr. Luke. For "Go Stupid 4 U," built around a sweet Brazilian acoustic guitar riff from Seu Jorge, he turns his own objectifying admissions into self-deprecating fun.
As he did with the summer smash "Blurred Lines," this album shows that Thicke is able to take the same building blocks -- soulful influences, hot producers -- and come up with something way cooler and more polished than his contemporaries. Hail the new neo-soul king -- at least until Maxwell or Musiq mount a challenge.
THE GRADE A-
BOTTOM LINE The new king of slick, blue-eyed soul