My, my, my. If you ever needed proof of how fickle the public can be, all you need to do is look at the sales numbers from last week’s release of Robin Thicke’s latest album Paula.
At this time last year, Thicke had the top song of the spring/summer. “Blurred Lines” was tearing up the radio, and its accompanying NSFW music video was filling the screens of mobile devices around the world. He’d taken some huge risks, and was reaping the benefits. Robin Thicke appeared to be on top of the world.
But the pedestal was wobbly. While his “Blurred Lines” hit was catchy enough, the cheeky nature of the song and lyrics like “I’m gon’ take a good girl/ You know you want it” and “You the hottest b**ch in this place” led to accusations of misogyny, prompting some college campuses to ban the song for its disrespect of women. Then there was the lawsuit from the family of Marvin Gaye, claiming that Thicke had ripped off the music for “Blurred Lines” from “Got To Give It Up.” And apparently, when a married guy sings misogynous lyrics, dances around with naked women on a music video and grinds with a twerking Miley Cyrus on national television, it can come at a personal price, too. Trouble in paradise led to Thicke’s widely publicized breakup with wife Paula Patton.
Things obviously weren’t going as well as they had been a few months earlier. So Robin Thicke took another risk. Wanting to win his wife back, he took his appeal public, mentioning his estranged wife by name on several awards show stages, and even deciding to name his upcoming sophomore release after her. He was apparently banking not only on winning her back, but also on endearing the public in the process and winning back some of his initial popularity.
This time, the risk didn’t pan out, and even the PR stunts surrounding the new album release fell flat. The first week’s sales numbers for Paula are nothing short of dismal. Billboard reports that in its first week out of the gate, the album has sold 25,000 copies in the U.S., compared to 177,000 in the first week for Blurred Lines last year (and an instant No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200). The U.K. sales numbers are far worse: The Guardian reports that so far, Paula has sold a whopping 530 copies in Britain. If something doesn’t change soon for the R&B singer, Thicke runs the risk of seeing his career end in infamy at worst, and obscurity at best.
So…setting aside personal feelings about Robin Thicke as a person, what can we learn from his experience thus far as an artist? First of all, as we mentioned earlier, the public is fickle. The truth is, Thicke could have lost momentum for any of a number of other reasons than for the allegations of misogyny and stealing music. So lesson one is, don’t define yourself by public opinion. But there is a second lesson, and that is that hype alone will never carry your career very far. Robin Thicke rose to fame on hype and controversy, and now those things are ironically biting him in the butt. To last in the industry, especially nowadays where instant fame is commonplace, there must be substance behind the style.
So is this the end of Robin Thicke’s ride to fame? Don’t bet on it. Remember, a lot can change in a year, and public opinion is fickle–and that can work both ways. Shortly after Bill Clinton’s scandal with Monica Lewinsky, he became one of the most despised men in America. Today, he’s remembered as one of America’s favorite recent presidents, second only to Ronald Reagan. Just saying.