It takes a lot to make you feel sorry for Robin Thicke. And, to be fair, it will take more than what you are about to read, but at the time of writing the gurning pop lothario is very much on the precipice of giving it the full Les Dennis.
The background is that, 11 months after he pranced about with topless models in one of the most miserably iconic pop videos of the modern age – and eight months after a Miley-abetted VMAs performance that pulled off the dubious feat of being almost as degrading to men as it was to women – Thicke separated from his wife, the actor Paula Patton, in February of this year.
There may well be more to the separation than meets the eye, and the rumour mill has been relentless, so let's focus on what we do know, which is that Thicke has been handling the situation with all the poise and grace you would expect from a man whose gift to popular culture is an oeuvre the nipple count of which makes your average edition of the Sunday Sport read like a mid-80s Innovations catalogue. To wit, he has created an entire album, called Paula, with the intention of winning back his wife.
A pop entity more self-aware than Thicke – and that's all of them except Jessie J – might say: "Fair play, this entire debacle has played out in public but should be salvaged, if indeed it can be salvaged at all, in private." Not the case for the Give It 2 U hit-maker. As an opening volley, Thicke told a Washington DC audience in March: "I want everybody here to know that I'm trying to get my girl back." After confirmation that his next album would indeed be titled Paula the announcement came of album's tracklisting. Opening with You're My Fantasy, Thicke's 14-track opus subsequently delivers, in order, Get Her Back, Still Madly Crazy, Lock the Door, and Whatever I Want, which reads less like a romantic gesture and more like a plot to violate a restraining order. Love Can Grow Back, pleads track seven, while by track 10 Robin is hurtling into the oft-ignored "foot appendage" portion of the five stages of grief with a song called Tippy Toes.
The album's artwork seems to depict Thicke gazing through a skylight and deploys some of the most offensive pop typography since Syco effectively ended 2013 X Factor winner Sam Bailey's career with a Mother's Day release whose cover was created using Times New Roman. Thicke's is the album artwork not of a multi-platinum global artist but of a singer who ends his weeknights packing up his own equipment and selling handmade CD-Rs after gigs, the dejected tone suggesting a man not selling compact discs out of the back of his car as much as actually living in it, at least until there is an available room in LA's equivalent of the Linton Travel Tavern.
Perhaps the criminal font was his wife's favourite, so let's turn our attentions instead to Get Her Back, the first single to be released from Paula (or second, if you include Thicke himself), and its almost comically execrable video. It features a bloodied Thicke (he's the real victim here!) and a superimposed text message conversation which the viewer has no alternative but to assume is between Robin and Paula. "You embarrassed me," reads one. "I can't make love to you any more." Now I hold my hands up – on an almost daily basis – to being no expert when it comes to the complexities of the female psyche, but I'm going to stick my neck out here and propose that if Paula was a bit iffy about her husbandgrunting around on stage with Miley Cyrus, she might not interpret the liberation of private text messages as a totally robust form of apology. Particularly as they're accompanied by footage of Thicke with – you're going to need to sit down for this one – yet another naked model. But that's just my take on things. Perhaps I should defer to the winning romantic instinct of a chap whose ascent to the pinnacle of woo includes blowing smoke in a woman's face.
So the text debacle continues. Thicke says: "I hate myself." No reply. He persists: "Can I come see you?" It's too soon, he's told. Then he delivers what he clearly believes to be the killer blow: "I wrote a whole album about you." At this point, as if speaking on behalf of all humanity, "Paula" replies: "I don't care." Suggesting that she may already have deleted his number, she adds: "I don't even know who you are." Perhaps she thinks she's in an SMS situation with her gardener?
Naturally the song, with its gloriously misjudged stabs at regret and humility ("I should have kissed you longer") is complete drivel; in the absence of Pharrell's Marvin Gaye hits CD, we're back to a pre-Blurred Lines type of Robin Thicke, ie the Robin Thicke whose interminable, rumpo-obsessed honking was roundly ignored on these shores for the duration of five album campaigns and may, if we're lucky, be roundly ignored once again.
But while Lost in Showbiz can now say so long and thanks for all the Thicke, we wish our Stateside brethren the best of luck in the endurance test that lies ahead in the form of the man's future efforts. He won't disappear overnight, but he might get the hint if the universal response to this entire new album echoes the three simple words of the "Paula" we meet in the Get Her Back video: "I don't care."