Robin Thicke: Paula

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Posted July 9, 2014 by in r&b
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Rating

Overall
 
 
 
 
 

1/ 5

Details

Genre: ,
 
Producer: ,
 
Label: ,
 
 
 
 
Genre: R&B, soul
 
Producer: Robin Thicke, Pro Jay
 
Label: Star Trak, Interscope
 
Format: Digital download, compapct disc
 
Time: 51:29
 
Release Date: 30 June 2014
 
Spin This: "Forever Love"
 

Pros:

Hardly anything positive aboard Paula, except for Thicke's passionate crooning, which seems to suggest he's been studying the art of John Legend lately
 

Cons:

The music and production seems dated, boring and uninspired
 

Probably just as disappointing as Robin Thicke’s split with Paula Patton is this album about Paula

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Probably just as disappointing as Robin Thicke’s split with Paula Patton is this album about Paula

Every artist has a bad day in their career. For Robin Thicke, the blue-eyed soul crooner that’s now estranged from his supermodel wife Paula Patton, he’s definitely living out one of those days. As a matter of fact, let’s turn “day” into “year.” A lot has gone down since “Blurred Lines” dominated headlines. There was the controversy of the Miley Cyrus AMA stunt and the whole “sex sells” imagery that documented his viral concept video. But Blurred Lines assured Thicke a place in superstardom when the title song catapulted to number one pop and rested there for twelve consecutive weeks. The single broke records, becoming the longest running single in the 2010’s decade. It gave Thicke his first ever number one hit; 2007’s “Lost Without U” was his closest to reaching that kind of mountain top euphoria when it peaked at number 14. Then all hell broke loose in Thicke’s world when his wife Paula Patton moved to Splitsville, leaving Thicke in a deserted place filled with regret, pain and heartbreak.

What transpired next for Thicke is something the ghosts of Marvin Gaye would have been way too scared to touch. Paula, his follow-up to Blurred Lines, is Thicke’s diary detailing his crumbling relationship with Patton and the hell he’s had to deal with after the controversies of “Blurred Lines” bubbled up, causing some of his most ardent fans to question the hit song’s lyricism outlining a disturbing nature of misogyny and rape.  He avoids the hi-res controversy this time around, but stumbles across something resembling awkward depression. For starters, things open up with a set of dreamy ballads using very minimalist instrumentation. He’s begging “please, please, please” across a palette of mild salsa on “You’re My Fantasy” before entering the straight-forward, falsetto-heavy “Get Her Back.” He sings about making it right with the departed Paula and promises to “treat her right” and “cherish [her] for life.” By itself, “Get Her Back” – the selected single off of Paula – plays like a B-side offering, nothing colossal enough to stand out as a single. The chorus is highly repetitive, which is usually a burden in Thicke’s songbook. Providing the backdrop of Thicke’s current situation, the single seems a bit creepy. It’s not because he’s being extremely transparent about what he should’ve/could’ve/would’ve done (“I should have kissed you longer, I should have held you stronger”), but because he dresses up like a stalker while airing his short term aspirations (“All I wanna do is get you back tonight”). If “Blurred Lines” was a song that was all about action, then listeners are going to have a nasty aftertaste when experiencing “Get Her Back.” According to Thicke’s law of physics, getting his estranged wife back into his arms is as easy as singing “hey, hey, hey.”

The next set of piano-driven selections (“Set Madly Crazy,” “Lock the Door”) finds Thicke crooning with the coarseness of John Legend.  There’s a bit of pop magic there, but cheesy lyrics eat away at the potential of the angelic choir-embellished, Stevie Wonder-esque “Lock the Door.” It’s hard to get pass “One-two, look at you, three-four, she locked the door” without cracking a few chuckles.

And that is what troubles Paula the most. It’s hard to take Thicke and this very tender moment seriously. Worst of all, he doesn’t really take the sensitivity of this moment seriously. He hints at domestic abuse and a suicide attempt on “Black Tar Cloud” but wraps these very serious subjects around the worst case of plastic blues. He injects uptempo swagger on the levels of James Brown animation into “Living in New York City,” but inflates his ego around the elite socialite life – something that seems so out of place for this type of apologetic literature. When one seeks for uptempo tracks to help breathe some life into the disc, they run across dated productions on “Too Little Too Late” and the irritating faux-rock n’ roll of “Tippy Toes.” “Time of Your Life” is just as disturbing. His only bit of redemption: “Forever Love,” which bears some of the romantic tapestry of the Force M.D’s “Tender Love” without sounding like a total knock-off. Only that will rise to the occasion of being chosen for radio rotation.

When Marvin Gaye released Hear My Dear back in 1978, the record was originally panned by music critics. It was an obligatory record, one that promised half of the royalties and profits of the record to go to Anna Gordy Gaye who was seeking monies to support their child, Marvin Gaye III. This was not a record he wanted to do, but as time rallied onward Gaye started to put his best foot forward. Coming out of those grueling sessions was a deep and personal record that showed Gaye’s strengths even on his worst day. It still was eerie, highly melancholic and even laced with lowbrow sarcasm. But at the end of the day, Gaye didn’t suppress his musical genius. For someone who is highly influenced (or inspired) by Gaye’s works, Thicke isn’t always playing in the same ballpark. He fiddles with Gaye’s tonality and signature moves (and those of retro yore ala Gamble/Huff, Barry White), but often fails to discover his own brand of artistry. His lyricism often feels cheaper than the golden era poets of R&B. But on Paula, Thicke doesn’t even trace Gaye’s strengths off of Hear My Dear. He doesn’t even copy Gaye’s mistakes. Heck, he barely traces his own strengths (there’s no sign of Pharrell anywhere). Copying anything by Gaye, whether good or bad, would have made this record salvageable.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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