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 ("I can smell your perfume/-Your legs are on my walls/Your body's on my ceiling/Your giggle down the hall"). "Paula," Thicke's seventh album, is a post-breakup record, named after his high school sweetheart and now estranged wife, actress Paula Patton. And it's a sharp departure from the blithe mood of 2013's "Blurred Lines," which gave him a No. 1 smash.
The couple separated in February, with some tabloids blaming Thicke's alleged infidelity. "Paula" is his chance to atone and, as the lead single is titled, "Get Her Back." But an apology album from an already emotionally exposed singer, who wrote about male insecurity on "Lost Without U," isn't that riveting. In the pantheon of male R&B divorcé music, ego and rage tend to be much more compelling. Marvin Gaye's 1978 "Hear, My Dear" — a bitter ode to his ex-wife, Anna Gordy — was selfish yet vulnerable, inspiring a lifetime of imitators. On the thrilling "Terius Nash: 1977," a scorned The-Dream depicted ex-wife Christina Milian as a gold digger and threatened to crash her next wedding. Usher practically flung divorce papers at his ex, Tameka Raymond, on 2010's "Raymond v. Raymond."