Screenshots from "Get Her Back"
Oh, it’s awkward, that thing where you get famous by telling everyone you’ve got a big dick, and then you end up all alone and reduced to making a concept album about your wife leaving you and your big dick behind, which is what has happened to Robin Thicke. Remember him, the biggest pop star of last year, who sang "Blurred Lines" and put out a video in which he spelled out his manhood in inflatable letters and top-heavy girls danced around him to emphasize the sheer power of his genital-related animal magnetism?
The song was huge—it topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 12 straight weeks—and hugely controversial thanks to an video full of nearly naked women and lyrics that seemed to be about pushing a woman to do something she didn’t want to do. Some universities banned it, but most clubs couldn’t get enough of it. I put it on when I DJed at a feminist club night starring Amanda Palmer, because I am a terrible human being who thought it would be funny. (People ran across the dance floor and made me take it off. They were delighted when I played Michael Jackson, though, who was accused of abusing several kids. But I digress.)
And so Thicke became a superstar at a relatively late point in his life—already pushing 40, married with a son and a mortgage and a backlog of soft-porn fantasy checks to cash. He did what anyone who finds himself in that position would do: He blamed the video on his wife, Paula Patton, claiming he only released that version because she liked the toplessness, and then went twerking with Miley Cyrus. Then he got caught fondling a fan, kissing another woman, and all sorts of sleaze until his wife said, You know what, this is getting more embarrassing than the fact you dress like Simon Cowell having a mid-life crisis; maybe the size of your dick is in inverse proportion to the size of your thinking organ—we’re through. So she left him—and now he has vowed to win her back. By making his new record all about his dick.
All right, so the album is ostensibly about Paula, as we know because it's titled Paula, and the first song is about trying to get her back, as we know because it’s called "Get Her Back." And because it has a just-released video that zooms in on his bleeding, crying, tortured face as text messages ping back and forth across the screen between a bickering couple, with one side writing, "I wrote an album about you" and the other side replying, "I don’t care." Other album tracks have titles like "Still Madly Crazy," "Too Little Too Late," and "Love Can Grow Back."
You can't accuse Robin Thicke of being cryptic. But this is not an album about Paula. This is an album about Robin Thicke’s big dick, which now swings in his hands like a lonely metronome in a piano shop at closing time.
I remember once going to see a friend who’d been quite excited about what her boyfriend was planning to do for her birthday. He’d had the word birthday written inside his arm in marker all week, so she was optimistic that he might present her with a thoughtful gift. But he stll didn’t manage it. He woke up on the day, realized he hadn’t bought anything, and then there was drama. His drama. “I wouldn’t actually have minded him forgetting again if he’d just got over it and tried to make the day really lovely,” she told me, “but he was so bothered about his failure that he kept bashing around the flat going, ‘Oh GOD, why am I SUCH a FUCK-up’ for hours and hours, until I finally managed to convince him it didn’t matter and that I didn’t care. So my birthday still wasn’t really about me at all.”
In the same way, this album is not really about Paula, and this song about getting her back is not about getting her back in any way that makes her happy. Not least because what makes her happy is, presumably, being free of Thicke. The funny thing about it is that it’s a standard pop narrative to go from sexy to contrite, from flesh-baring to sad. It’s like when Christina Aguilera did the "Dirrty" video, with the chains and the oil and the leather, and followed it with "Beautiful," where she was all sweet and virginal again.
Interestingly, circumstance has forced Thicke, who's become something of an Antichrist for feminists, down this established female pop narrative. He’s been forced to apologize for his sexiness. He’s been nudged into the virgin-whore dichotomy by his own wife, which is quite satisfying for us onlookers. Those of us who moaned about him at the start should be happy now, right?
OK, that's sort of a stretch. Intellectual contortions beside, I believe one of the following two theories is true: The first is that his wife is in on all of this, and playing her part in a real-life soap opera. The celebrities who get the most attention these days are the ones living out their breakups and mental meltdowns on social media. Thicke is well aware of that, and so has invited us all into his orchestrated and finely produced collapse.
The other, less fun but probably true theory is that his wife is genuinely sick of him, and he really does want her back, because there’s a very good reason they’ve been together since their teens, which is also why he can’t marry anyone else or even sleep with anyone else. A noble, special, private thing that unites two human beings. And that thing is this: He doesn’t actually have a big dick at all. He has a mousey little todger. A weeny little pipsqueak of a weener. And he has to be with her, because she’s the only one who knows.
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