Firstly, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room. Despite recent headlines suggesting otherwise, Robin Thicke has had a long and varied career before last year’s ‘Blurred Lines’.
He has released seven albums and was an industry-respected songwriter and artist long before Miley Cyrus grinded on him. More than that, we reckon it’s somewhat unfair to suggest that ‘Paula’ is purely a cynical exploitation of Robin’s marriage collapse, when his wife has been his muse since the very beginning of his career. His first album even had her on the cover!
Now, let’s look at the music… ‘Paula’ is brave simply because Robin has not made an album of ‘Blurred Lines’ ripoffs.
First single ‘Get Her Back’ is an understated R&B ballad reminiscent of his earlier work (particularly 2007’s ‘Lost Without U’).
For the most part though, Robin has crafted a collection of songs inspired by the likes of Marvin Gaye and Ray Charles. Songs like ‘Time Of Your Life’, and ‘Love Can Grow Back’ sound like they belong on a episode of ‘Bandstand’ whereas ‘Something Bad’ has a Robert Palmer 1980s feel. ‘The Opposite Of Me’ is an inspired combination of 1960s doo-wop with John Mayer-esque vocals.
Things go a bit wrong when he returns to a modern sound on ‘Whatever I Want’ and ‘Too Little Too Late’, with both sounding rushed. The latter in particular has that early 2000s faux techno sound that *NSYNC loved on their ‘Celebrity’ album. Considering it has been less than a year since his last album, Robin should have taken more time and gotten these tracks up to scratch.
Better is album closer ‘Forever Love’, which is mainly piano and Robin’s tender singing. Unlike the rest of the album (and its promotional campaign in general), it seems completely genuine due to its lack of lyrical desperation. Instead of begging for a second chance or trying to portray himself as a victim, he tells his wife “whenever you need a friend baby, I can be the one that you need”. It’s cinematic and sad and, well, sublime really.
‘Blurred Lines’, twerking, cheating, and general douchebaggery aside, Robin Thicke is great at what he does.
Don’t judge a book by its cover (or title in this case), ‘Paula’ is, for the most part, a bravely ambitious album.
Download: Get Her Back, Forever Love.