‘When you’re not busy objectifying women, making light of rape and justifying sexual violence, how do you like to relax?”
This was a question put to Robin Thicke during a live Twitter Q&A session last week. The PR exercise was intended for Thicke to promo his new album and ideally answer questions about his favourite colour and so on. But instead he got queries such as: "Did you really write a rape anthem as a love song for your wife and are you still wondering why she left you?".
And that wasn't even the worst thing that happened to Robin Thicke last week. His new album received some of the worst reviews in the world. "Humiliating for everyone involved", "One of the creepiest albums ever made" and "genuinely embarrassing" are actually among the more positive. Get Her Back, the single, has been described as "one of the most pitifully boring songs ever to be whined into existence".
The first problem with Thicke's record is the title – Paula, after his estranged wife Paula Patton. The entire album is a desperate plea for Ms Patton to take him back, and it's a vile affair from first note to last. There's way too much personal information, lots of blubbing and lyrics that make a 12-year-old's personal diary read like Albert Camus. Thicke may have been trying to come over all vulnerable and love bruised, but he sounds like a demented stalker who shouldn't be allowed out unsupervised.
As for Patton, all you can hope is that she changes her name and gets tooled up with the best legal team going. Paula is a dreadful intrusion on the poor woman's privacy.
Some see this as a karmic call-back to the controversy surrounding Blurred Lines. Thicke did get it in the neck for that disgusting song, but the double standard is that Mr Happy himself, Pharrell Williams, co-wrote, sung on and produced it, but took none of the blowback.
Sales-wise, Paula is the story of the year. Considering the huge commercial success of last year's Blurred Lines album, the figures so far for the new one could well be the biggest drop in a single artist's sales ever. Paula has picked up just 2 per cent of Blurred Lines's first-week sales.
The album sold fewer than 54 copies in all of Australia – a shocking figure for a name artist. In the UK it managed 530 copies and briefly looked like it might crack the top 200 but didn’t. Reports that someone in Ireland bought a copy by mistake remain unconfirmed. Quite seriously, you couldn’t sell fewer copies if you tried.
Alarms bells were already going off when Thicke announced he would be writing and producing the new album all by himself. And that it would all be about trying to get back with his wife.
Normally in these cases the label slaps you around the face a bit and sends you off to pub to "reconsider". But because Thicke struck gold with his last album, the Paula master tape wasn't smashed up with a hammer and buried under quick-setting concrete. Instead, it was allowed out in the hope that the "fanbase" would buy anything with the man's name on it.
But people no longer consume music by artists, and last year’s hit-maker has crashed and burned. Hey, hey, hey Robin – you know we don’t want it.