Robin Thicke's last album became his first No. 1 on The Billboard 200 album sales chart when it bowed in the U.S. in 2013: “Blurred Lines” was the name, and “Blurred Lines” it boasted. The runaway hit single (and it's breast-bearing “unrated” music video) help propel Thicke's name back into consumer consciousness because, consider, Thicke was a hot dog in 2008 for “Something Else” (No. 3) then dropped down a bit with hilariously named “Sex Therapy: The Session” (No. 9) and “Love After War” (No. 22) in 2009 and 2011, respectively.
So maybe it was the success that doomed Thicke's new album “Paula,” which apparently sold just more than 500 (five hundred) copies in the U.K. last week, and made it to No. 9 on The Billboard 200 this week with only 24,000 copies. To put that into perspective, “Blurred Lines” sold 177,000 copies when it came out last summer. “Love After War” (that No. 22) sold more than 40,000 in its debut week.
Lots of factors can go into this. “Get Her Back,” the lead single, was only just added at radio in the last couple of weeks. It starts at No. 82 on the Hot 100. It's an OK song, but it doesn't snap like “Blurred Lines.”
“Get Her Back” has been promoted via TV appearances, but so has a couple other choice cuts from “Paula,” which may not point consumers at a singular touchstone for buying.
There was only about a month put into promoting this album cycle.
And, also, “Paula” is really weird, and puts fans in a really weird place.
It's said that new album sales are a reflection of the last album, and if you'll remember, “Blurred Lines” (the song) put many fans and potential fans in an awkward spot, ultimately because of content. Obviously, the T.I. and Pharrell Williams-featuring single had (and still has) loads of support as a party and radio song. But it wasn't all good feelings, with it's “blurred” messaging in the lyrics and the video, giving many people a stink-face about Thicke, who went on a weirdly Weiner-esque defense of the song. For instance, that “Today” show head-scratcher. Plus, people got sick as sh*t of it as it mixed with the peak of Miley Cyrus twerk hysteria.
Then, there's “Paula,” an album that my cohort Melinda Newman called a mix of apologies and revenge. It's devoted to his estranged wife Paula Patton, and he's made it explicit that this album was intended to “win her back.” That in itself makes it a liability for a singer who is airing his and his wife's dirty laundry with such slap-dash commercial gusto.
I love Usher's “Confessions.” It's also an album about splitting up and divorce and marital issues. But it sure as hell isn't called “Tameka.” In R&B, there's a requisite demand for intimacy and authenticity, for the listener and by the performer. And there's also an art to keeping it personal, despite the famous-ness of its artist. That you can call a blurred line. The explicit shame-training artlessness to “Paula” — months after the dick-swinging of “Blurred Lines” and the conversations about sexism and womanizing it started — doesn't seem so much as a “confession,” but a power and publicity play, so air and embarrass. Whether wrongdoing in the Patton-Thicke marriage was on his part, or her part or their combined parts (heh), there's a creep factor Thicke should have considered before his showed up with a busted-up face in the truly terrible “Get Her Back” music video.
Speaking of music videos, most of Robin Thicke's aren't doing him any favors, so there's that.
“Paula” wasn't working for consumers. Again, I think it's healthy and good for music fans to have complicated relationships to their artists. Robin Thicke is forcing those complications, as he's smiling and winking at the camera the whole time.
Perhaps Thicke will be thankful that his low albums sales in the U.K. and the U.S. will raise awareness that he even has a new album out. Hell, you could see this article and think the same thing, though I'll warn it's densely mediocre. Go give a spin to Trey Songz' “Trigga” instead (he's No. 1 this week).