Plenty of fans are listening to Robin Thicke's new album, Paula, and thinking, "This marriage may not be salvageable." And by that, they mean the sacred contract between performer and audience, not the one between Thicke and his estranged wife, Paula Patton — although that's obviously not going so well, either.
In devoting an entire concept album to his hopes of winning back Patton, Thicke has come up with some of the most laughably quotable lyrics of the 21st century, proving that the lines between pathos and comedy really are blurred.
He's actually indulging in a fine pop tradition, actually — The Divorce Album — although most other stars who've recorded one did it to exorcise their bitterness and not try to "Get Her Back." None of the other practitioners of the form ever wrote lyrics quite as imploring as "Ooh, turn the porch light on/At least open the doggy door" or "I should have brought you roses… and rubbed your toesies."
Are you nursing your own romantic wounds, and looking for an album about how you can do better than your ex? You can do better than Paula. Here's a sampling of some other stars' (far superior) autobiographical breakup albums:
Adele was "miserable and lonely" — duh — when she and Dan Wilson wrote "Someone Like You" about the love of her life, a decent guy who, as it indicates in the song, had not just moved on but already gotten married. This muse was the subject of nearly every other song on her mega-selling collection of laments, too. Saturday Night Live had it right with that hilariously weepy sketch: 21 is what you put on if you need a good, self-pitying cry that'll last 45 minutes longer than the one you'd get out of Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me."
Nas, Life is Good
"I guess this is my Here, My Dear album, [like] Marvin Gaye made," Nas told The Guardian upon this record's 2012 release. On the front cover, he has the green wedding dress worn by his ex-wife, Kelis, strategically draped over his knee. "I found it in my house and thought, it's going somewhere! Either on the cover of my album, or burning in a garbage can."
Amy Winehouse, Back to Black
Hey, we told her Blake Fielder-Civil was no good. But she sure got a heck of an album out of that relationship, before diving back into it with him a few months after the album's release helped fuel a pattern of self-destructiveness that led to her never making an album again. It's harder to find anything funny in the album since her death, but there was a good deal of wit as well as woe in her breakup laments.
Taylor Swift, Speak Now
"Dear John," Swift's epic farewell ballad to John Mayer, had such sizzle, you can still get second-degree burns just from listening to it today. "Back to December" is rumored to be about Taylor Lautner. But not all her best breakup songs are so specifically tied to one celebrity ex. "Last Kiss" masterfully evokes the memory of the final clinch you didn't know would be the final clinch, and you're really better off not knowing whether such a beautiful song was inspired by Joe Jonas or not.
Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak
It's a bit of a death album, too, with West's mother just having passed away, but mostly it's the mother of all severely Auto-Tuned ex-fiancée bashings. Rolling Stone called it "Kanye's would-be Here, My Dear or Blood on the Tracks, a mournful song-suite that swings violently between self-pity and self-loathing." He seems to have rebounded a little since.