Robin Thicke - Paula (2014)

Robin Thicke
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2013 was, indisputably, The Year Of Robin Thicke: thanks to the controversial  catchiness of "Blurred Lines," the singer and songwriter transcended the R&B realm and emerged front and center at Mainstream Pop, reaching the pinnacle of his decade-plus career. We all could've done without "Beetlejuice" attire and subsequent bump-n-grind-action with Miley Cyrus at last summer's MTV Awards, but when Robin joined the legendary band Chicago for that onstage medley during the 2014 Grammy Awards, shedding overt sexualization for genuine style and showmanship, he gave fans hope that the personal and professional growth would continue. 
 
Unfortunately, less than 2 weeks later, Robin Thicke was brought crashing back down to Earth when his wife, actress Paula Patton, announced their split after one son together and nearly 9 years of marriage.
 
2013 was, indisputably, The Year Of Robin Thicke: thanks to the controversial  catchiness of "Blurred Lines," the singer and songwriter transcended the R&B realm and emerged front and center at Mainstream Pop, reaching the pinnacle of his decade-plus career. We all could've done without "Beetlejuice" attire and subsequent bump-n-grind-action with Miley Cyrus at last summer's MTV Awards, but when Robin joined the legendary band Chicago for that onstage medley during the 2014 Grammy Awards, shedding overt sexualization for genuine style and showmanship, he gave fans hope that the personal and professional growth would continue. 
 
Unfortunately, less than 2 weeks later, Robin Thicke was brought crashing back down to Earth when his wife, actress Paula Patton, announced their split after one son together and nearly 9 years of marriage. The loss of his most significant adult relationship----and possibly, some of his sanity right along with it----is painfully chronicled in his seventh studio CD, Paula.
 
To be fair, all we've been privy to are trashy photos and gossipy innuendos of what imploded their once-idyllic marriage: whether it was an 'open marriage' gone awry, 'Mileygate' or whatever, Ms. Patton left with their son Julian and Robin decided to focus his creativity into an 'Operation 'Reunited'-type set. However, as admirable as those intentions are, Paula demonstrates more self-pity than self-reflection. Most of the material feels empty and obligatory, revealing issues that should be worked out in couples' therapy rather than a recording studio. 
 
Maybe if Robin had crafted an EP dedicated to the Mrs. rather than a full-length set, Paula could've netted stronger results. "Whatever I Want" offers snap and sass as an up-tempo independence anthem "since there's nobody [around} to tell you what to do"; "Still Madly Crazy" feels sweet and sincere and "Time Of Your Life," even if it tries a little too hard, is an energetic hybrid of pop and swing. "Forever Love," a plaintive piano-anchored ballad, pledges eternal commitment however and whenever it's desired, while "Opposite Of Me," intentionally or not, gives the most insightful glimpse as to why Mr. Thicke is on an apology tour these days: "All that she wants is someone that doesn't hurt, all that she wants is the actions not the words." 
 
Ultimately, that's where the problem is when it comes to the rest of the CD: emotion vs. execution. Robin, who's likely still reeling from the shock of the split, hasn't taken any time to decompress and examine the error of his ways, so he's basically throwing around bloodless, creepy space-fillers ("Tippy Toes," "Something Bad," "Black Tar Cloud,"), lazy retreads ("Living In New York City," "Lock The Door") and telling his wife what he thinks she wants to hear rather than lessons he's learned from his mistakes (have I mentioned that none of the tracks seem to mention their son Julian? NONE?!?). So, as a result, Mr. Thicke sounds patronizing instead of passionate. "Get Her Back," the Freudian freakshow video aside, feels more like a rant instead of an oath; "You're My Fantasy" objectifies when it's supposed to honor, and "Love Can Grow Back" is so grimy and lecherous that listeners might be tempted to take a shower right after the track ends ("You're waaaaaay too young to dance like that in front of a man like me Babe.....[insert image of skin crawling here]"). 
 
The one time I held a conversation with the performer, he was in the midst of a sound check and promoting The Evolution Of Robin Thicke. After greeting me with a hug, Robin asked me point-blank, "Do you have the CD?" I told him something like "not yet" and instead of looking disappointed, he just grinned and gripped my shoulders again: "Oh but you must! You've got to get it," Robin gushed, "because that's where the magic is!" Too bad for Mr. Thicke there's no such thing as a magical reconciliation....or a magical-sounding Paula. Marginally Recommended.
 
By Melody Charles
 
 
Choice Cut - Maysa - "Lovin' You Is Easy"

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