Robin Thicke

Paula

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A sleeve that would have been a more emblematic model for Robin Thicke's seventh album is that of Robert Goulet's My Love Forgive Me. If Paula bears any other relation to Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys -- the graphic likeness is unmistakable -- it must be far beneath the surface. Like the 1964 Goulet album, Paula deals in remorse and heartache -- ballads that acknowledge fault and plead for mercy. It even has a bossa nova-inspired moment. Yet with Thicke, determining the level of sincerity here is as tricky as ever. He's in entertainer mode to such an extent that he sounds not like an agonized singer/songwriter but more like a reinterpreter/exaggerator of songs that would be more effective with humbled performances. Beyond the relatively light likes of "Get Her Back," even the stripped-down ballads, including "Still Madly Crazy" -- the one song in which he sounds like he is in real pain -- are ostentatious. The most over-the-top song is "Lock the Door," a piano blues ballad; he howls "At least open the doggie door, throw a friend a juicy bone" as if he's going for yucks rather than expressing how low he feels. The album doesn't strictly exploit his separation. In fact, much of it is another form of mess. Some of the songs that could fit on any non-conceptual Thicke release sound like commissioned work. Take "Living in New York City," a distant descendant of James Brown's "Living in America" and Janet Jackson's "Nasty," seemingly made for a visitors bureau, or the equally hammy "Tippy Toes," which could be used to sell a line of footwear. Those aren't the only numbers that resemble frivolous "Hey, we need one more" throwaways. Along with empty flash like "Something Bad" and "Time of Your Life," they're all part of Thicke's least appealing album.

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