After being on top of the world (and the charts) in 2013, Robin Thicke’s world has come crumbling down in 2014. In other words, it’s been a crappy year for Thicke. Robin Thicke separated from wife/longtime sweetheart Paula Patton and even more shamefully released a lackluster album named Paula to “Get Her Back.” Eyes rolled worldwide, as no one was ‘buying’ Thicke’s tricks, or better yet his album.
This week, Paula earned Thicke his lowest album sales this side of The Evolution of Robin Thicke. The Evolution of Robin Thicke initially debuted at #45 on the Billboard 200 selling 20,000 copies, but went on to peak at #5, exceeding its humble beginnings. Paula starts off unremarkably at #9 selling just 24,000 copies. Compared to last year’s smash Blurred Lines, Paula is off by roughly 153,000 copies! Can you say downgrade, Thicke, downgrade?
After The Evolution of Robin Thicke started slow, it gained momentum for the artist spawning #1 R&B hit “Lost Without U.” “Lost Without U” would be the single that ‘set up’ Thicke’s career. “Blurred Lines,” the rare 12-week #1 pop single, would seemingly both restore and breakthrough Thicke’s up-and-down career, giving him his first #1 album and biggest commercial numbers yet. Below are how Robin Thicke’s five albums compare in regards to chart peak and opening sales.
BTW, A Beautiful World, credited to Thicke (as opposed to Robin Thicke), isn’t included in any discussions here.
- The Evolution of Robin Thicke, 2006 (Peaked at #5, initially sold 20,000 copies; Sold 116,000 copies during the week of February 21, 2007)
- Something Else, 2008 (#3, 137,000 copies)
- Sex Therapy, 2009 (#9, 123,000 copies)
- Love After War, 2011 (#22, 41,000 copies)
- Blurred Lines, 2013 (#1, 177,000 copies)
- Paula, 2014 (#9, 24,000 copies)
In regards to singles, often a factor in driving the chart performance of an album, “Blurred Lines” supersedes the success of “Lost Without U.” “Blurred Lines” was highly decorated, more so than “Lost Without U,” which peaked on the pop charts at #14. Otherwise, the rest of Thicke’s moderately successful singles haven’t quite had the same reach. The list below only lists singles that reached both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B/Hip Hop Songs charts.
- “Lost Without U” [The Evolution of Robin Thicke] (#14 Hot 100, #1 R&B/Hip-Hop)
- “Can U Believe” [The Evolution of Robin Thicke] (#99 Hot 100, #15 R&B/Hip-Hop)
- “Magic” [Something Else] (#54 Hot 100, #6 R&B/Hip-Hop)
- “Sex Therapy” [Sex Therapy] (#54 Hot 100, #1 R&B/Hip-Hop)
- “Give It 2 U” featuring Kendrick Lamar [Blurred Lines] (#25 Hot 100, #7 R&B/Hip-Hop)
- “Blurred Lines” featuring Pharrell Williams & T.I. [Blurred Lines] (#1 Hot 100, #1 R&B/Hip-Hop)
- “Get Her Back” [Paula] (#82 as of July 9, Hot 100, #33 R&B/Hip-Hop)
The singles are somewhat telling. Notice that there were no charting Hot 100 singles from December 2011 release Love After War. Given the busy, crowded holiday sales time as well as the restraint of the album itself, it seems as if Love After War didn’t have much to propel it to more enthusiastic sales. “Blurred Lines” indeed was the career boost at just the right time that Thicke needed.
Yet with a hastily released follow-up album, Robin Thicke has killed his own vibe and possibly his career. How many times have artists released the wrong album, not to mention at the worst possible time? Chris Brown’s forgettable Graffiti (2009) comes to mind. Like Thicke, he had a monster album follow-up a less notable one (F.A.M.E., 2011), and then released the horrid, second-rate follow-up (Fortune, 2012).
Comebacks are always possible, but they don’t always work. Ask Mariah Carey, who released a respectable album in Me. I Am Mariah that has been the biggest commercial train wreck of her career. Thicke has put himself in a precarious position. When your career prime has already graced its presence, sometimes other opportunities are ‘no-goes.’