Robin Thicke delivers a lackluster breakup album
Today I am here to talk about breakup albums. It is an undeniable fact that the best music comes from pain, and I was sincerely hoping that Paula would be Robin Thicke’s Here My Dear. Unfortunately, it is my sad duty to confirm what we probably all knew, all along. Robin Thicke is not some sort of musical genius, he can’t turn his personal misery into a classic album. But we all knew that, right? Allow me to get personal with you for a moment and take you through my journey with Paula.
When I first heard that Robin Thicke was releasing a new album, I didn’t care. I never bought into the whole ‘Blurred Lines’ hype or fallout, I just thought it was a catchy non-offensive song, but I was wrong. The lyrics on their own were pretty non-offensive; it takes a great deal of conjecture and imagination to interpret these rapey undertones from a lyrical standpoint.
The majority of the controversy should probably have been focused on the director of the music video itself, who wanted to create a video that would go viral.
Unfortunately for Thicke’s career, he took the brunt of the criticism. A quick aside: Justin Timberlake’s ‘Tunnel Vision’ had a far more misogynistic video, yet he escaped controversy. The reason? Justin Timberlake has far more talent and personality than the Thickester.
I became more interested in Paula once I learned more of the story behind the album. Robin Thicke has been with his wife Paula Patton since 1991; he met her when he was 14 years old. They have recently been going through a very public separation due to infidelity on Thicke’s side. To quote the man himself:
I wrote all the songs in about three weeks and we recorded the album in about a month. Obviously all the songs were about her or about how I feel about her. A lot of songwriters have done this kind of thing before. They won’t tell you in the title or they’ll be suggestive … I was just like, ‘There’s no reason to hide who this is about.’ It’s all about her.
This piqued my curiosity for Paula. I was expecting this short burst of creativity to somehow transform Robin Thicke into some sort of Marvin Gaye figure, who could write a tragic album about this difficult period in his life. Some of my favourite albums have been written and recorded in similarly short time spans.
It should be noted that without Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke would not have become the global sensation that he is today. Without Pharrell’s disco beat and the aforementioned music video, people wouldn’t know much about Thicke outside of some Lil Wayne features. Somehow these two factors combined to give Thicke the biggest song of 2013.
It has proved difficult for Thicke to follow up the success of ‘Blurred Lines’ and his career has been in the toilet ever since the controversy began. The sexism allegations have offended women all over the world, and he has done little to win them over. By my calculations, women make up roughly 50% of the world’s population, and 80% of his target audience. I’m no publicist, but perhaps it would be a good idea to try and take accusations of sexism seriously and possibly issue some sort of apology
Paula was released on 30 June 2014, to tragic first week sales. Over in America, Thicke recorded his lowest first week since 2007, back when nobody knew who the fuck he was. The ‘Blurred Lines’ controversy was most pronounced; in Britain and he only managed to sell 530! during the first week. It gets worse. It has been reported that Paula has sold fewer than 50 copies in Australia.
Much of this public backlash could have been easily avoided- clearly, Robin Thicke’s PR people are inept. It was not necessary for his career to die over the past twelve months and I am about to offer a simple solution to his career woes.
Robin Thicke should follow the lead of our good friend Chris Brown. Most people suspect Robin Thicke is a misogynist and a scumbag, but we all know for a fact that Chris Brown is some sort of violent sociopath. If we cast our minds back to 2012-13 we might remember that his career was in the shitter after the domestic violence incident with Rihanna.
Then there were the fights with Drake and Frank Ocean, the time he smashed up the television studio and rehab. It would have been foolhardy to release a new album during such a turbulent period. Instead, he waited until everybody had forgotten about him and all the terrible things he had done. Suddenly, Chris Brown is back in the charts, he’s got a new album and everything. He did a way better job of destroying his career than Robin Thicke, look at him now. He’s back with a vengeance.
So, I have finished my preamble and am ready to actually address the many issues with Paula. I hope we all feel suitably updated on Robin Thicke’s career and the album’s background. It is somewhat important for understanding the album.
Paula’s emotionally naked lyrics make for a compelling album. I feel sympathy towards Robin Thicke; he takes the entirety of the blame for the disintegration of the relationship. ‘Get Her Back’ serves as the lead single, it is a public apology to Paula for taking her for granted and presumably having numerous affairs.
You might expect all the songs on an album named Paula to be about the aforementioned Paula, but they aren’t. The track ‘Living in New York City’, is about….living in New York City. You can’t accuse Robin Thicke of having cryptic song titles. This is an upbeat disco track about all the wonderful things going on in New York. It’s a place ‘where the girls are pretty / streets are witty’. This song highlights the two biggest issues I have with this album: Firstly, the basic lyrics:
Furthermore, this was supposed to be an album about Robin Thicke’s wife of nine years? A woman he has known since he was 14 years old. How difficult was it to write 14 songs about Paula?
I appreciate that the album needs to have some radio-friendly songs, but in this case the majority of them feel like getting-laid anthems. “Something Bad” has Thicke talking about how much of a bad boy he is, with lyrics such as ‘I’m in pieces of a puzzle if you ever even finish babe it won’t be worth the muscle’. First of all, that makes no fucking sense- I don’t understand how someone can be ‘in pieces of a puzzle’. Secondly, why the fuck does an album about a divorce need a celebratory song about Bad Boy Robin? If I wanted to hear more about this ridiculous character I would listen to ‘Blurred Lines’.
Paula is a poor album, which I knew as soon as I heard the six minute opening track ‘You’re My Fantasy’. This is a weird song. The chorus and production are very sexual, ‘Touch me you’re my fantasy / My body’s yours, my heart is yours’. The first verse is presumably about how when Robin first met Paula, he realised he could never be friends with her. The second verse is about how Paula is a wonderful ‘mother, earner, lady and a star’. ‘I will always daydream wishing that you were mine / I understand right now you need some space and time’. So, in two verses, Thicke covers how great Paula is in bed, how wonderful of a mother she is and finishes off by telling her that he respects her boundaries during their separation.
While we are on the subject of boundaries, I must address ‘Black Tar Cloud’. This is the most personal song on the album and deals with an argument one night between Robin and Paula. The lyrics suggest that this argument was caused by Thicke’s infidelity and it causes Paula to attempt suicide. Once again there is a female backing vocalist who backs up what Thicke says, ‘You were lying in bed (truth) / Said you took twenty pills (truth)’. It detracts from the seriousness of the incident. Like many of the songs on this album, it could have been great, but unfortunately is hindered by Thicke’s limitations as a musician. Also I am fairly sure this is another song that would not aid Robin Thicke in his attempts to win his wife back.
To conclude, I feel that the subject matter on this album is fascinating. Thicke displays great amounts of humility and openness throughout the album, and my view of him as a person has improved as a result. It is a shame that he lacks the talent to carry such a personal album. Aside from the subject matter, Paula offers very little; the production and lyrics are simple and the singing doesn’t impress either. I am disappointed because I was enthused by the concept behind the album and genuinely wanted to like it. 3 out of 10.