Never has someone tried so hard to NOT win back the love of their life. If you’ve been following the shit show that is Robin Thicke and Paula Patton’s relationship after “twerk-gate”, then you’re vaguely aware of the game at play here. Robin made a habit of embarrassing his wife in public, she got tired and peaced out. His next move, in response to his wife’s understandable stance on public embarrassment, was to make a spectacle of his attempt to win her back. So what does a blue-eyed soul crooner do when his back is against the wall? He exploits his wife, and relationship to sell records of course, and any modicom of forgiveness goes out the window once you realize that his heartfelt opus could have been thrown together by any decent vocalist with a working knowledge of Garage Band. Paula is bland, derivative and clearly a cash in on his twenty plus year relationship with a woman who clearly just wants to be left alone.
The worst part of Paula is that it fails as a full body of work and on a track by track basis. Don’t get me wrong, dude can sing, and when songs work, they work, but that’s few and far between. The opening track “You’re My Fantasy” fits easily into the Robin Thick catalog. Soft guitar, that fits within his vocal range which has always been somewhat limited but effective, and sounds like all the other songs about his wife(which most of his “better” songs are). Then you have to remember that he’s supposed to be apologizing here, but he treats track one like a victory lap in a race he’s already won.
The false certainty continues on “Get Her Back” where he talks about the things he didn’t do, and now he’ll have to wait forever for her to love him again. Not going to say he’s delusional, but he seems to know something we don’t, but that’s the other aspect of Paula, dude wants us to know EVERYTHING about her.
Call me old fashioned, but I often thought that while apologizing to someone, you don’t spend most of your time talking about what they’ve done to you. Maybe i’m wrong, or maybe Mr. Thick operates from a different apology playbook, either way, Paula is stuffed with subtle and not so jabs at his estranged wife, and how much she did for him to go around playing grabass in the first place. “Lock The Door” plays like the stripped down version of a song instead of a full sampling. Not necessarily a bad thing, as it gives it a raw, and intimate feel, but the lyrical content is way too on the nose. Thicke does everything but give out her license plate number and list of greatest fears. But, that song is nothing compared to “Black Tar Cloud” where he basically croons about her fake suicide attempts, breaking his guitars, and chasing him with golf clubs. All while slightly hinting that he may have deserved it.
Paula is a weird album to comprehend. On one hand it’s a pretty meh R&B album, on the other it’s a fascinating spectacle, but so much vitriol is thrown at the woman he supposedly loves, you’re left to wonder if it’s all been an elaborate troll job to make her look bad since he knows they’re through. I wondered out loud if half the album was done around the time that they split and he just threw together a bunch of haphazard love songs to capitalize on the situation. How much of that was him, and how much was pressure from the label to meet deadlines are unclear, but I do know that on an album dedicated to his wife in 2014, Robin Thicke made a song that sounds like “Abracadabra” by the Steve Miller Band (“Too Little Too Late”).
I can’t cosign any of Paula. Dude had one job, and that was to whine for our amusement and he failed in that regard. Secondary was putting together at least a good album out of it; swing and a miss. If he was smart, he would have called up Lenny Kravitz, who crafted one of the best “get my lady back” songs ever recorded. And you know what, that didn’t work either, so Paula didn’t stand a damn chance.