Just over a year ago, I called Robin Thicke’s “Paula” -- the careless and deeply creepy album he recorded in an apparent last-ditch effort to reconcile with his estranged wife, Paula Patton -- a “virtual what-not-to-do guide for both songwriters and spurned lovers.”
Today I’m wondering if Thicke’s new single might end up one of the best of the year.
Posted late Wednesday on YouTube (perhaps as a way to combat tabloid reports that he’d proposed to his 20-year-old girlfriend), “Back Together” is, simply put, a total banger, with a killer electro-disco groove co-produced by Max Martin and a delightfully raunchy guest verse by Nicki Minaj in which she makes novel use of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s maiden name.
Thicke fans more loyal than I may have seen this coming, given his long, pre-"Paula” track record of excellence. (Shout out to “Sex Therapy” from 2009.) Yet “Paula” was so bad -- and so misguided -- that I suspected Thicke had lost touch, maybe permanently, with his old creative flair. His defeat in a highly publicized legal contest over his song “Blurred Lines” only added to the sense that the singer was kaput.
“Back Together,” though, suggests that Thicke has rediscovered his mojo. It’s not the only strong work he’s been doing lately, either: “Morning Sun,” a velvety soul number said to be the title track for an album he’s working on, recalls the handsome ballads he was writing a decade ago. And then there’s “I Don’t Like It, I Love It,” his winningly dumb collaboration with Flo Rida and Verdine White of Earth Wind & Fire.
Are we ready to deal with this dude again?