Robin Thicke's 'Paula' Debacle: Fans Aren't Forgiving Him Either

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Paul Grein
·Writer
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Robin Thicke's Paula has bombed in both the U.S. and the U.K. It sold just 24K copies in its first week in the U.S., which allows it to enter the Billboard 200 at No. 9. It did much worse in Britain, where it sold just 530 copies (you read that right) and entered the chart at No. 200. Thicke's previous album, Blurred Lines, opened at No. 1 in both countries. It sold 177K copies in its first week in the U.S. and 25K copies in its first week in the U.K.

Naming his album Paula is just one of several highly public gestures that Thicke has made to try to woo back his wife, actress Paula Patton. (The couple separated in February.) The album was recorded this spring in a whirlwind session. "I came right off a tour and I had all these songs and all these ideas and feelings in my heart. And I went right into the studio. I wrote all the songs in about three weeks and we recorded the album in about a month," Thicke recently told Ryan Seacrest. "Obviously all the songs were about her or about how I feel about her."

This album is just part of Thicke's grand (but so far unsuccessful) campaign to save his marriage. At the recent BET Awards, he prefaced his performance of "Forever Love" (another track from the album) by saying: "I'd like to dedicate this to my wife. I miss you and I'm sorry." He made a similar dedication on May 18 at the Billboard Music Awards, where he performed "Get Her Back." He has also dedicated his 2007 hit "Lost Without U" to Patton in concerts.

Some critics have suggested that Thicke is guilty of over-sharing with the public. Reviewing the album for Billboard, Clover Hope noted, "The begging begins about 55 seconds into 'You're My Fantasy,' the opening track on Paula. Over gentle salsa strums, Robin Thicke pleads 'please' seven times in a row to a woman whose absence feels ghostlike … If it sounds like TMI, that's because it is. Paula plays off how invasive and uncomfortable a celebrity breakup is — not just for the couple involved, but for those watching and, in this case, listening. Fans want to know, but maybe not this much."

The main problem with the new album, really, is that the album's first single, "Get Her Back," has gotten off to such a slow start. It finally entered the Hot 100 last week at No. 82. By contrast, "Blurred Lines," the first single from Thicke's last album, was in its ninth week at No. 1 on the Hot 100 the week the album debuted. (The single would stay on top for a total of 12 weeks and become the No. 1 hit of 2013.)

Another specific problem for Thicke is that his contrite manner in recent months is the opposite of the carefree, even cocky, persona he projected on "Blurred Lines," and especially in the racy video. He may be confusing his fans.

Thicke's first-week tally is even below the first-week sales for Love After War, Thicke's album that preceded Blurred Lines. That album sold 41K copies in its first week in December 2011. And that album was considered a dud for Thicke. His two albums before that, Something Else and Sex Therapy: The Session, both enjoyed triple-digit first week sales.