THICKE as a brick

Pop singer’s lat­est of­fer­ing is bone-headed and, more im­por­tantly, to­tally creepy

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - ENTERTAINMENT - JEN ZORATTI jen.zoratti@freep­ress.mb.ca

JUST when you thought Robin Thicke couldn’t get any more gross than last sum­mer’s Blurred Lines, he re­leases the mu­sic video Get Her Back. Looks like “stalker-ish” is this year’s “rape-y.”

The video is part of an elab­o­rate (and woe­fully mis­guided) cam­paign to win back his es­tranged wife, Paula Pat­ton. In Fe­bru­ary, the cou­ple is­sued a state­ment to People mag­a­zine an­nounc­ing their sep­a­ra­tion. This came on the heels of the 2013 MTV Video Awards, where Robin was pho­tographed with a woman who is not his wife. Un­for­tu­nately for him, they were stand­ing in front of a mir­ror, and his covert ass grab be­came very pub­lic.

Get Her Back is the first sin­gle off Thicke’s forth­com­ing al­bum — ti­tled Paula, nat­u­rally — due out next week. It fea­tures songs with ti­tles such as You’re My Fan­tasy, Still Madly Crazy, Love Can Grow Back — and, on the more dis­turb­ing end, Lock the Door and What­ever I Want. He’s begged for for­give­ness on­stage and on so­cial me­dia; the hash­tags #Paula and #GetHerBack have been si­mul­ta­ne­ously used to hype the al­bum.

Be­cause if you’re go­ing to go to all that trou­ble to pub­licly ha­rass/shame your wife into get­ting back to­gether with you, you might as well make some money while you’re at it, right?

Re­leased Mon­day, the shud­der-in­duc­ing clip — or, “the mu­si­cian’s lat­est ro­man­tic ges­ture,” depend­ing on who you ask — fea­tures Thicke, blood­ied and shirt­less, sad-eyed and pa­thetic, out­lin­ing his var­i­ous trans­gres­sions (“I never should have raised my voice or made you feel so small”). He cries. He rages. He romps with a naked woman who looks eerily like Pat­ton. There are var­i­ous scenes of vi­o­lence — in­clud­ing un­set­tling his ’n’ hers drown­ing scenes. Through­out the video, a real (or imag­ined, it’s not clear) text mes­sage ex­change ap­pears on the screen: “I wrote a whole al­bum about you,” he says. “I don’t care,” she re­sponds. The con­ver­sa­tion ends, chill­ingly, with this mes­sage from Thicke: “This is just the be­gin­ning.” This is just the be­gin­ning. If we’re work­ing un­der the Ox­ford dic­tio­nary’s def­i­ni­tion of stalk­ing — to ha­rass or per­se­cute (some­one) with un­wanted and ob­ses­sive at­ten­tion — then surely an en­tire al­bum cam­paign qual­i­fies as such.

Even if this is some icky pub­lic­ity stunt that Pat­ton her­self is ac­tu­ally in on — which some, such as Noisey, the mu­sic af­fil­i­ate of Vice, have sug­gested — it still re­in­forces that well-worn but nonethe­less dan­ger­ous pop-cul­ture trope that act­ing like a stalker is some­how a ro­man­tic ges­ture.

As Amanda Hess notes at Slate, this love-me-or-else nar­ra­tive isn’t new and can be found in many pop songs, sung by both male and fe­male singers — from the Bea­tles’ Run For Your Life to End of the Road by Boyz II Men; from Peggy March’s I Will Run to You to prac­ti­cally ev­ery sec­ond en­try in Tay­lor Swift’s cat­a­logue.

But, as Hess points out, when fe­male singers put them­selves in the stalker role, their songs tend to be­come viewed as em­pow­er­ment an­thems.

“While the male stalk­ing nar­ra­tives serve to re­in­force a real so­cial prob­lem — the idea that se­duc­tion looks in­dis­tin­guish­able from abuse — putting a woman in the stalker’s po­si­tion turns the song into a power fan­tasy that’s not backed up by hor­ri­fy­ing real-world sta­tis­tics.”

In­deed, that’s what’s most dis­turb­ing about Get Her Back — it plays di­rectly into that idea that se­duc­tion looks in­dis­tin­guish­able from abuse. That the video was called “ten­der” by Spin is telling. The song it­self is a del­i­cate, sum­mery ear­worm. Through heavy­handed im­agery and puppy-dog eyes, Thicke places him­self in the role of the vic­tim — of his own self-flag­el­la­tion, that is. He wants to make it clear he blames him­self, that it’s his fault. He’s play-act­ing a sad­sack try­ing to win our sym­pa­thies, to soften us. As if to say, “Look how bro­ken-hearted I am. I am so sorry.”

This is not ro­man­tic. This is ma­nip­u­la­tion. And whether she’s in on it or not, Paula Pat­ton isn’t a hu­man be­ing with agency in this sce­nario. She’s a plot de­vice on Thicke’s con­cept al­bum. A mar­ket­ing tac­tic. A hash­tag. She’s quite lit­er­ally an ob­ject of his de­sire.

I do not feel sorry for Robin Thicke. To quote a tweet from Ot­tawa ac­tivist Julie Lalonde: “Robin Thicke doesn’t need a ‘hug.’ He needs a re­strain­ing or­der.”

VEVO

Thicke is at his blood­ied, shirt­less, creepy best in the vi­o­lent, pa­thetic video for Get Her Back, which was re­leased Mon­day.

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