Music Times writers share an office area of roughly 45 sq. ft, which makes having face-to-face conversations totally impossible. Junk Mail is these millenials' attempt to discuss and review the week's hottest album releases... without needing to look at each other.
This week: Kyle Dowling, Caitlin Carter, Carolyn Menyes and Ryan Book email back and forth about Robin Thicke's Paula.
Carolyn Menyes: Maybe it's because I'm inherently a very private person, but I just can't even with the entire concept behind Paula, so I went into this album listening experience with very few expectations... and they were met. While there are a few totally listenable songs, I find this new Robin Thicke album to be, on the whole, very unappealing, from the constant pleas to the cheesy music... Blech.
Caitlin Carter: Right off the bat, I feel so sorry for Paula Patton. This sort of desperation reminds me of those guys (or girls) in movies who appear to be the good guy just trying to win over someone's heart but who in real life would be considered stalkers. It's kind of skeezy for Thicke to publicize his relationship with Patton because it forces her to have to be accountable to the public in what she decides to do, thus making her the villain if she denies him. Also it's kind of unfair that he is making money off her relationship problems.
Beyond my ethical issues with the album though, the songs aren't all that bad if you don't put them within the context of his life. "Lock the Door" was pretty good as well as "Still Madly Crazy." Side note: Did anyone notice that first line on "Love Can Grow Back" ("You're way too young to be dancing like that in front of a man like me, baby"). I may be reading into this too much, but I feel like he is making a reference to his VMA controversy with Miley Cyrus.
I feel like I've made a lot of points here, so just respond to whichever ones spark your interest.
Kyle Dowling: To start, I would say that I didn’t necessarily feel the album was terrible. While it’s not necessarily my thing, there are a few songs I find catchy. I would agree with all of the songs you mentioned, Caitlin, as well as the album’s first track “You’re My Fantasy” … but that’s mainly due to the guitar riff and not exactly Thicke’s participation in the tune.
To your point about Paula Patton: I find it incredibly weird that he’d name the album Paula. It seems wrong to me for someone to put another person (who they supposedly care for) in the public eye when they never asked to be. It seems selfish to me. I would also agree with you that it makes her the villain. There’s almost no win for her.
While I didn’t hate the album (nor did I love it), one thing I found jarring was that there were a few tracks which made me feel as if I was listening to a cover band. For example, I felt I was listening to a James Brown or Stevie Wonder tribute band on “Living In New York City” and a Frank Sinatra-esque impersonator on “Time Of Your Life.” I usually like variety in albums, but for some reason I feel this took away from it. Maybe the whole Paula Patton thing just overshadows the actual material on the album for me.
CM: This album is really emotionally manipulative, which is basically what you're getting at Caitlin and Kyle. If Paula works and Patton goes back to Thicke, she's a weak woman returning to a cheater. If she stays away, she's a cold b---h keeping a man away from the ~love of his life~ and son... Thicke will admit he's selfish, he's done it dozens of times during this album cycle, but I don't think he recognizes the full spectrum of his idiotry. And I feel sorry for Patton, too. Do you know she hasn't been seen in public in like four months? Poor woman...
It's really hard to pull the music itself away from all the public scandal and Thicke's misogynistic douchebaggery, but if you do, I still think the material is really only OK. He said at one point this was written and recorded in like two weeks, and that shows. The lyrics are circular, the music feels like I'm in a cheap piano bar... there are a few jammers, which I guess I can dig into later, but I'm really underwhelmed. How is THIS the follow-up we get to the very troubling but earwormmy "Blurred Lines?"
CC:The album feels like a hodgepodge of songs written prior to his scandal and a few quick tracks written during the two weeks you spoke of, Carolyn. There definitely wasn't an earworm to be found on Paula.
KD: I will admit that during the listening I was curious if there was a song that could be a follow up to “Blurred Lines.” And the answer a definite NO. And to Carolyn’s note about it being written and recorded in 2 weeks, I can totally see that. Carolyn, was there anything you liked about the album?
CM: Not really, to be honest. It's just not well executed, which is my main problem aside from the stalker vibes, misogyny, humiliating his wife, etc. You can do a breakup record, hell you can even do an apology record... those are totally fair game and heartbreak makes for some of the best music, and I am always down to give it a shot. But I feel like Thicke just poured out all his misguided feelings and rushed his journal into production.
If I have to pick a thing I like, it's his attempts to pull in old school R&B into Paula. I'm a sucker for throwback music (it's why I love Bruno Mars so darn much). So, you know, theoretically "Lock The Door," "Tippy Toes" and even "Living In New York City" have a good musical framework, but then I listen to the lyrics and they make me cringe.
As for your earlier point, Caitlin: that lyric is definitely a callout to Miley Cyrus. There's like zero subtlety on this album... it's called Paula for God's sake. So, if you think Thicke is talking about something specific, yeah, he is.
Anything redeem Paula for you guys? Am I just too blinded by disgust? (Which is possible.)
CM: I feel like Coldplay's Chris Martin kind of takes the cake this year for executing a personal/break-up album with tact. He also had a very public split, but his songs didn't feel awkward even though the listener knows he's talking about Gwyneth Paltrow.
KD: Anything that redeems Paula? No. All of my interest in the album comes from the instruments themselves. It’ll be hard for listeners to listen to this album and not think it’s a little bit weird.
RB: [Ryan rushes in from a podcast date and insists on adding a bit of snark.]
This album reminded me a lot of "Here My Dear" by Marvin Gaye. Except in reverse. And not good either.
Somewhat ironic that Gaye can craft an amazing album about his divorce, essentially under court order to pay for his alimony, but Thicke can't come up with anything better than this to reclaim the supposed love of his life.
CM: I've heard a lot of people saying this is the very poor man's Here My Dear, and that's just really very accurate. I feel like there was a way for Thicke to make Paula compelling. Losing the ~love of your life~ has to suck. (I can't imagine life without my boo.) But this is just so very very wrong, kind of like assuming a girl wants to have sex with you if she dances with you at a club... But Thicke has shown before he doesn't have a great sense of judgment, so it's no reason why this album is such a bomb.
CM: Robin Thicke is gross, and maybe that's something I should throw aside to properly review this album, but when he throws his public life into the mainstream like this, it's not something so easily dismissed. I could forgive all of this if the music itself was good, but the lyrics are cheesy, the music is lounge-y and Thicke comes across as stalkery and desperate instead of heartbroken. If I want to hear someone lament lost love, Imma go to my girl Adele. Byeee.
KD: The fact that it was written and recorded in two weeks shows. Though there are some interesting musical elements to the album (solely in the instruments) it’s not enough to outweigh the raw weirdness of the situation between Robin Thicke and Paula Patton. It’s one thing to be heartbroken and want the love of your life back … but it’s another thing to drag them into a publicized mess when they didn’t ask for it.
CC: I feel like the intentions of the album are a little skeezy with Paula put in the position of either being the villain or the push-over. It is pretty obvious that this album was thrown together quickly because it feels all over the place, which I'm sure just reflects Thicke's life being all over the place. There were a few good tracks in there, but nothing that sticks out like "Blurred Lines."