Why Robin Thicke’s Public Apology Falls On Deaf Ears
So I listened to Robin Thicke’s “Baby, baby please, I’m down on my knees, begging you to come back to me” album and I swear this is not an outrage piece.
Rather, this is more of an exploration into the merits of the public apology. For the record: I am totally against it. And I’ll explain more later. But before that, let’s talk about the effectiveness of Thicke’s tactic of reconciliation. I’m not quite sure if that will work neither.
As just an album, Paula has lots to be desired. And as an public apology the album’s message of “forgive me, baby, baby please” also seems kind of half-ass. As pointed out in a wonderful list of fun facts about the Paula album, Aliya King writes in Vibe Magazine that “Robin really dropped the ball on the album cover. The album is called Paula. But the cover photo is Robin looking pensive? No. The cover photo was supposed to be an old-school picture of Robin and Paula together back in high school. Or a baby picture of Paula. Or one of their wedding photos or something.”
Outside of the questionable album art, there were other elements of Thicke-centeredness featured on the album,. In fact, what is supposed to be a public apology at times sounds more like some personal peacocking and ego-stroking. First there was the sound. If Thicke was channelling the sultry coolness of Marvin Gaye before, he was definitely aiming and reaching for the more soulful sincerity of Bill Withers. Reaching is the emphasis here. Songs like Lock the Door and Black Tar Cloud had all the hallmarks of a classic Withers’ tune, but without the feeling. There are other noticeable musical influences including Bobby Day (“Rockin Robin”), Frank Sinatra (as well as other members of the Rat Pack) and of course, more Marvin Gaye. Just like his Withers’ homage, Thicke produces a sound, which is close but ultimately comes across as a cheap caricature.
In fact, despite the ’50’s through ’70’s old soul flavor, its overall tone and complexity is reminiscent of the public apologies put-ons, which was all the rage in the earlier parts of this century. And according to King of Vibe Magazine, I might be on to something as: “ This album is similar in tone and scope to Usher’s 2004 opus, Confessions. Fun Fact: a pre-fame Robin Thicke wrote “Can You Handle It” for the Confessions album. Funner fact: There’s an interlude on the song with a woman’s voice speaking—it’s Robin’s then-girlfriend, a pre-fame Paula Patton.
So basically, this is Confessions, part III: the overkill. Here’s another fun fact: despite Usher’s milking up all the controversy the album produced during its alleged confessional of his past relationship with Chili from TLC, the album was actually about Jermaine Dupri’s love life. And while that doesn’t change musically the appeal of the Confessions album, the confusion over who the protagonist in the “story,” is what ultimately helped to move some units.
On Paula, Thicke doesn’t try to dupe us with his main characters, it is hard to hear how any of it relates to the theme. In fact, some of the songs didn’t even have actual lyrics like Whatever I Want, which sounds more like the background music in one of those retro-films about the porn industry – think Boogie Nights. And then there are songs like the 50s-inspired “Tippy Toes” and “Living In NYC,” which sound lots like fillers and seemingly have little to do with the album’s alleged aims of courting his wife back.
The uptempo- “Too Little Too Late” is a cute change from the album’s mostly one sad note format. And so is “Love Can Grow Back,” which for a split second I thought was going to be a sweet song about Paula but no, it’s still about him. More specifically he tells Paula in the song: “With your new nails on my backs, your new nails on my back/ You be scratching and scratching my itch.”
Yeah because scratching his “itch” is exactly what I want to hear in an apology about how bad you feel for brazenly slinging your married D around the planet. “Forever Love” is probably the most apologetic song on the album, but even that sounds like faux-easy rock listening. Like this is the part of he movie where the couple meets at the airport – just before she is about to board the plane – and they hug, confess their love and walk out together holding hands. We are misty eyed and lovestruck for this fictitious couple, but nobody cares about the background song. That what this album is: the background music in cheesy chick flicks that folks somewhat care about.
And again if not for the album’s name, we would be hard pressed to find a concurrent theme in this body of work, other than co-opting old songs from the 50s through the 70s. It’s very hodgepodge and very rushed. And I’m not quite sure how any of this will get her back? I’m certain Robin, who admittedly hasn’t seen or heard from his wife in four months, doesn’t neither. He just wanted to make another album.
The whole thing reminds me of a personal situation I was going through several years ago. I was dating this dude and we had been going hard with each other for a few months. He was fast and intense, confessing all sorts of wonderful things about “love” in my ear. I was caught up too with him. I thought it was one of those whirlwind relationships you see in one of those campy chick flicks with the Robin Thicke background music, where folks fall in love at first sight and live happily ever after. Well turns out it wasn’t. In fact, he had a whole other chica on the side he was wooing with the same rap.
Worse I didn’t find out about his other lady until I happened upon them hugged up together at a public venue. Needless to say, I snapped on him – publicly. A few months ago, we would reunite. Not fully over everything but still feeling him none the less, I convinced myself that everyone makes mistakes and that I should give him another chance (plus back then, I wasn’t trying to be by myself). It was going good until he decided to take me back to the same venue and – in front of everybody- gave a little speech, apologizing for cheating and embarrassing me in public. The public loved it, but me: not so much.
For one, none of those people he was apologizing in front of, were there the night that the original incident went down, so in essence, he just managed to put me out there – twice. And for two, I was the one, who had been wronged, not the general public. So what was the point of falling on your sword in such an loud manner? Other than sympathy? And right on cue, the audience “ooohed” and “awwed’ at his public apology. They offered him encouraging words about how brave it was for him to do that. And then they turned to me. In fact, the entire incident left a bad taste in my mouth and about a month or so later, I finally summoned the courage to call it quits with him.
And that is the major problem I have with public apologies: it’s really not about seeking forgiveness from the victim but more about clearing the conscious of perpetrator. These faux displays of reconciliation are more about making it possible for Thicke to say: “welp, I did my best,” when in actuality he hadn’t done his best. He did the bare minimum. But now he gets to rest easy on a comfy pillow, while Paula possibly is up all night, wondering if she is a good or bad person for not accepting his public “apology.”
Paula if you are reading this: the answer is nope. You are not a bad person. It’s just that he is not really sorry. Perhaps, just sorry.