When I was thirty-two, I survived a breakup of a long-term relationship that felt like what I’d imagine a divorce would be. The details of the breakup are largely inconsequential to the rest of this story save the fact that I was 200% wrong, and that, yes, like Taylor Swift’s 2012 pop hit says, “we [were] never ever (ever) getting back together.” Thus, when I regard the paltry sales and pathetic marketing tactics surrounding Paula — Thicke’s seventh studio album, and a pandering plea to Paula Patton, the pop singer’s wife of nine years from whom he’s legally separated — I want to give Robin Thicke the same advice I gave myself nearly five years ago when contemplating trying to win my ex-girlfriend back: “Walk away, brother. When you’re done, you’re done.”
This whole situation starts with “Blurred Lines,” one of the worst of the best chart-topping singles in recent memory. The song’s producer, Pharrell Williams, interpolating the spirit of Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” (and not paying, at worst, a nominal fee to the estate of Marvin Gaye) aside, the song is unapologetic about being cheekily sexist in the midst of the third wave of the modern women’s revolution. The song’s success made Robin Thicke a mega-star and household name, the kind of guy that Miley Cyrus absolutely had to twerk upon and, wife-be-damned, many women probably wanted to sleep with to find out “what rhymes with hug me?”
Success that breeds ubiquity often has the unpleasant after-effect of society’s demand for failure. In the week ending August 15, 2013, “Blurred Lines” was heard 228.9 million times on American terrestrial radio stations, besting Mariah Carey’s nearly decade-old record. The song was also globally parodied, as everyone from Jimmy Fallon and The Roots to “Weird Al” Yankovic took aim at the single. Somewhere between the Gaye allegations and being cloyingly synonymous with everything, everywhere, Robin Thicke fell out of favor.
From a production and performance standpoint, Paula is a terrific album. Robin Thicke has twenty years of recording industry experience, and in handling all production and songwriting himself, it’s tastefully executed work. However, it’s in the fact that the album is by and about a man who is unflinchingly wrong and attempting to gain immediate redemption that the record scratches to a standstill and all respect for its creative excellence hits the skids.
I can’t imagine a person alive who lacked a small, nagging desire to see Robin Thicke lose at life. Foremost, he’s the son of 80's ABC sitcom icon (and well-respected songwriter) Alan Thicke aka Growing Pains’ “Dr. Jason Seaver.” He’s also a white guy singing rhythm and blues married to a stunningly attractive African-American female. His childhood babysitter was hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and he performed at basketball icon Michael Jordan’s wedding to his second wife, Yvette Prieto. Add “Blurred Lines’” success as well as rumors abounding of Thicke and Patton having an open marriage to the mix, and yeah, f*** that guy.
In the Bible’s New Testament, it’s stated that “love is patient” and “love is kind.” Continuing, it says, “[Love] does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) From personal experience, I can say that the wanton infidelity that Robin Thicke likely engaged in is absolutely a boastful and proud thing. The boasting comes when you’re about to cheat, that moment of knowing that a) you’re breaking the rules and b) you’re about 99% sure that you’re not getting caught. Pride, well that comes after the fact — that 1% of uncertainty about getting caught while cheating now successfully removed.
Basically, when the moment comes that you’ve been boastful and proud about doing something not so lovely outside of the notion of what love is, you’re not allowed to be in love anymore. Any semblance of the respect you eventually retain both with and from the person you once loved will approach the purity of the romance that once existed, but otherwise, the relationship is fractured forever. Maybe it’s not fractured beyond repair, but like an arm removed from a splint, it’s absolutely never the same again.
The sad reality that, for as much as Robin Thicke destroyed his own marriage, he has now successfully destroyed the relationship to his fanbase beyond all repair.
In an ADD-addled, here this morning and gone this afternoon musical environment, the success of “Blurred Lines” was ultimately its downfall, and started the denouement of Robin Thicke‘s career. With access to music having fewer boundaries than ever before, anyone who was a fan of “Blurred Lines” didn’t just download the track, they probably streamed it, and then they heard it on the radio, at the mall, in the gym and pretty much everywhere else, to the point where the song they initially loved became the song that — quicker than ever before — nauseated them, too.
Once a star’s presence has become sickening, it’s usually a great time to release a fresh, new single, possibly with a fresh, new sound, more than likely on a brand new album. Of course, in the period between Blurred Lines and Paula, Robin Thicke’s seemingly idyllic life crashed in upon him, and amazingly, it may have been the final straw for his fans. From those who hated him for his “silver spoon upbringing,” to those angered by a more racially-motivated angst surrounding his interracial marriage, to yes, those people who just hated that annoying, sexist and appropriated hit song, Thicke’s “fans” now had something more concrete upon which to base their rising distemper.
In its first week of American release, Paula sold 24,000 copies. That was good enough for a top 10 placement. Of course, between the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia the album sold less than 1300 first-week copies, so all was not well. Furthermore, note that now, just two weeks after release that floral retailer 1-800-FLOWERS.COM partnered with Thicke, creating two bouquets named after his album tracks “Get Her Back” and “Forever Love.” The “Forever Love” bouquet is $64.99 or $89.99, the “Get Her Back” bouquet (with 100 red roses) is priced at $349.99. By comparison to Taylor Swift selling albums with Papa John’s pizzas and Lady Gaga selling albums on Amazon for 99 cents, the move is less obvious, but certainly heading in such an unusual direction means that the expected sales figures are not being reached.
Again, as a fellow cheater (but not one who rose to recent global acclaim with a hit pop song) who once pined for the love of a scorned woman, I advise that it may be time for Robin Thicke to leave not-so-well enough alone and just be done. Should he be done with love? Absolutely. If Paula wants to come back to this flawed open relationship, that’s a “blurred line” she should be allowed to cross on her own, without the pressure of a mainstream album squarely on her shoulders. As far as music? Maybe Thicke should be done for awhile. The pop star’s now exhausted fanbase is clearly struggling to accept their hero, turned zero, turned negative one. Maybe it’s time to allow for the public (similar to his estranged wife) to forgive, forget and learn how to respect him once again.
Walk away, brother. When you’re done, you’re done.