Here's the bad news for Robin Thicke: Paula, an album-length plea to estranged wife Paula Patton to return to him, is unlikely to accomplish its goal. Which shouldn't be entirely surprising; he's undoubtedly an apt-enough student of history to recognize that of the many musical projects famously dedicated to exes, not one spurred a follow-up called Reconciliation.
Paula's naked soul-baring he and Patton split earlier this year amid rumors of infidelity is also a little jarring juxtaposed with last year's rakish Blurred Lines and its titular chart-topping smash. Even when he's verbally flagellating himself, as he does on the otherwise breezy ''The Opposite of Me'' and propulsive ''Too Little Too Late,'' it's hard to shut out the music-video images of Thicke rubbing up against a parade of topless models.
There's a breathlessness here, as though these songs rushed out of Thicke uncontrollably. That energy is welcome Paula is not all sad-piano ballads but it also leads to some incomplete thoughts: Opener ''You're My Fantasy'' starts strong with a saucy Spanish guitar groove, then runs in place for nearly six minutes. And even though he admits, ''I'm in pieces of a puzzle/If you ever even finish, babe, it won't be worth the muscle'' on ''Something Bad,'' Thicke can't help but make his bad-boy pose sound seductive. Paula's muddled take on sexual politics probably won't woo his wife back, and the lack of an obvious ''Blurred''-size hit means the Hot 100 may be equally unmoved. B-
''Black Tar Cloud''
''The Opposite of Me''