‘Paula’ may not contain the same brand of bare-arsed, I-know-you-want-it misogyny of ‘Blurred Lines’, but if anything Robin Thicke’s latest album is worse. Gone now are Thicke’s groping tendencies and his typically brash façade, stripped away by his estranged wife, the actress Paula Patton, who he broke up with in February and named this record after. In their place are these 14 laughable tracks in which he navigates the incomprehensible notion of a woman not only having a mind of her own, but one who would actively choose to not be in a relationship with Robin Thicke.
Thicke opens with some weak Hispanic flavouring in ‘You’re My Fantasy’, where the moping commences with nearly six minutes of breathy grovelling. He even falsettos, ‘please, please, please, please, please, please’, but Paula isn’t having any of it. In ‘Get Her Back’, Robin laments: ‘I should have kissed you longer / I should have held you stronger’, in a tonally misfiring croon that sounds vaguely threatening when you think about it.
The hymning carries into ‘Still Madly Crazy’, where Thicke watches the birds and thinks about Paula some more to the plink-plonk of minor key piano. At this point some imagery is deployed: Thicke is ‘in chains in the rain’, so we know he’s getting serious – and we’re only at track three.
‘Lock the Door’ drags in a backing choir for some faux-soul warbling about a metaphorical door which Paula has now locked Robin out of. In the next track ‘Whatever I Want’, from behind this portal of rejection, Thicke sagaciously deems it acceptable that Paula can do whatever she wants – as long as she doesn’t ditch him, of course.
From here the album fades into a transparent whiny mess which you can only hope is just a poorly judged marketing ploy. There’s a flash of intrigue in the James Brown pastiche ‘Living in New York City’, but we’re soon drowned in Paula-themed love-elegies like ‘Love Can Grow Back’, ‘Too Little Too Late’ and ‘The Opposite of Me’. The mawkish drudgery is broken up by the higher tempo of the cosmically terrible ‘Tippy Toes’, and Thicke’s unintentional Michael Bublé impression in ‘Time of Your Life’. Somehow these later offerings are the most depressing of the album.
For the sign-off, ‘Forever Love’, Thicke sits back down behind the piano and spews as many slurred clichés as possible about ‘lurve’ before silence mercifully falls. Whatever the idea was behind this blundering apology album, it might just warrant an apology all of its own.