Likes: Get Her Back, Lock the Door, The Opposite of Me, Forever Love
Dislikes: Tippy Toes
Overall: Heartfelt as usual with a vintage vibe; not the most affecting though
Actress Paula Patton has always been the inspiration for the records of her singer-songwriter husband, Robin Thicke, but this time she inspires from a different place: Patton filed for legal separation in February after almost 10 years of marriage. Thicke airs his pleading wounds of regret and sorrow on his 7th album, fittingly titled Paula. Representative of Thicke’s writing skills, the lyrics are literal enough to where you can clearly visualize the events described, but they’re still figurative and store elusiveness (ex. “Black Tar Cloud”). Thicke berates himself as neglectful, self-sabotaging, greedy and inherently inadequate and Paula as the only source of balance, as he both walks down a sunny memory lane and looks at the current disaster. The production is scaled back and isn’t as crisp, slightly giving the essence of a raw rehearsal or jam-session recording, augmented by bluesiness and 1950’s-like rhythms (ex. “Love Can Grow Back,” “Tippy Toes,” “Time of Your Life”). Thicke’s vocals are just as unfiltered; there’s more gravel and listlessness and less of his trademark smooth falsetto. Incongruously, there’s a certain emotional weight missing, leaving you to only sympathize, but not empathize. You can sense he’s panged, but Paula doesn’t leave you bawling or ruminating on your own life. Maybe it’s because the music isn’t arresting as a whole. I banged my head to the funk of “Living in New York City” and felt pretty depressed listening to “Forever Love,” but as I said, comprehensively speaking, I wasn’t knocked down. My strongest dislike was the cheesy, plastic, karaoke-sounding background vocals. Mentioning that might seem silly, but it was so distracting and annoying to me. Oh and what’s Robin’s thing with Latin-flavored music? It seems there’s always at least one track like that on every album. Does one of his parents have a Latin background? I’m not mad, I’m just curious. Anyway, what’s best about Robin Thicke-his soulful delivery, musicality and from the heart content-is present on Paula, so if you’re coming for that, you’re good. If you’re coming for songs to cry to or that you can’t get out of your head, things might not work out for you.