Robin Thicke: the man everybody loves to hate (#askthicke); the man whose music everyone has stopped buying (this album). Yet somehow he’s managed to release a collection of songs even less palatable than last year’s ‘Blurred Lines’. This is the sound of desperation, hot sticky desperation left behind in a tissue next to an old picture of the titular ‘Paula’.
It’s no secret that this album has been released in honour of Thicke’s estranged wife Paula Patton as he begs her for forgiveness following multiple rumours of cheating. The apparently rapey lyrics of Blurred Lines don’t help. Neither did THAT picture of Thicke groping a fan (in the mirror at least). He recently told Good Morning America “I just wanted to make something artistic out of a very difficult period”.
Well I guess at least he’s trying.
The songs of ‘Paula’ don’t exactly help his cause though, ranging from the creepy to the downright inappropriate. “Touch me you’re my fantasy” is the opening lyric of the album, but whether this is aimed towards Paula or some mistress is a blurry line indeed. As he continues to plead “please, please, please, please…” on that same song in a silky falsetto, it’s unclear whether he’s begging for forgiveness or intercourse. Sonically at least the Spanish guitars mark a return to the Latin flavour of his earlier work, but the baggage imbued in the lyrics negates any enjoyment.
The titles alone give a sense of the obvious sentiments in each song: Get Her Back (“all I want to do is make it right”), Still Madly Crazy (“I’m so sorry you had to suffer my lack of self-control”), Love Can Grow Back (“show me how love can grow back”), The Opposite Of Me (“all that she wants is someone who doesn’t hurt”). Black Tar Cloud, meanwhile, is a clear cry for help as he contemplates the impact of his actions (albeit with some horrible innuendo): “I was licking your wounds, I thought we were straight, I thought everyone was going to eat the chip, turns out I’m the only one who double dipped”. Too Little Too Late has a similar meaning, with its female chorus of “it’s too little, too little, too late” and Aretha reference in “should’ve shown some R-E-S-P-E-C-T”. When a man is so obviously, musically, on his knees, it’s understandable to feel a little sorry for the guy.
But you’d think he’d learnt his lesson.
The more upbeat tracks are a clear attempt to repeat the success of Blurred Lines, but the whole sentiment of the album isn’t just undermined on these songs, it’s practically nuked. Lock The Door is probably his new mantra for whatever he gets up to in recreational hours, a female voice of reason answering “I don’t know what this is but I know this ain’t love”. On Whatever I Want, Thicke chimes “I can do whatever I want” over a sexy beat that’s hardly going to inspire forgiveness. Living In New York City has a slightly threatening air to it with the line “wait ‘til you see what I do when I find somebody like you”. If you’re looking for creepy, though, look no further than the deeply voiced opening of Something Bad as he groans suggestively “there’s something bad in me” before a string of revolting innuendo: from “the blood in my veins, something’s got me by the reigns”, to “so take a leap of faith and baby land in my bed” and “I know you want to fly so baby open up your wings”. If you want forgiveness Robin, maybe don’t sing a song clearly aimed towards a mistress that suggests you can’t keep that “big dick” under control.
After all that, it’s simply laughable that he dare end the album with a track called Forever Love.
It’s true, Thicke might be an easy target for criticism and he certainly shows a certain degree of bravery in laying bare his soul here - his sheer desperation does evoke a touch of sympathy. Most of all, though, ‘Paula’ simply cements Thicke as the sleaziest, grottiest man in music.
He does have a good voice though.
Listen: 'Paula' is available now, if you want to not buy it like everyone else.