Christ on a Bike: why Robin Thicke always rubbed me up the wrong way.

I’ll admit my guilt before I go much further – I’ve been known to hate things just because they’re popular. I don’t know… there’s something about popularity that makes me feel just a little bit empty. Maybe it’s the inherently temporary nature of being liked by large groups of people. I just can’t get into that. And I can’t like something on a merely superficial level, it makes me feel like a hollow ol’ hanger-on, kind of like a flippant little fraud. No deal.

And if I do go for something that a lot of people like, it’s usually only after a lot of wheedling from a friend or family member who wants me to form an opinion on something they’ve grown to love, or at least wants me to enjoy it too. I mean, a few months ago, I watched a lot of Downton Abbey because my mother wanted someone “well-versed in both screenplay and literature” to discuss it with. Complimenting me is totally the way to get me to do stuff. Mama knows. And it turns out I think those characters are somewhat likable (except for Mrs. O’Brien. She knows what she did. UGH).

So when I heard that Robin Thicke was greasing his way up the hype-pole, I was bemused. Really, was it the Second Coming of the Bicycle Courier already? But I don’t want to be alone with him. Such misuse of funk (I still can’t believe it happens, isn’t the funk supposed to be for everybody?) makes my hair fall out. The Thicke of the early 2000s had a unique combination of wussy & creepy that made my hands all clammy. Eep. THEN THAT BLURRED LINES VIDEO HAPPENED. Almost every ‘sucky’ song gets a ‘sucky’ video, but nobody could have prepared for that.
Does not compute.
Grammar jammer.
Such public.
Very attention.
Lots women.
Everybody opinion.
Need air.
Please quiet.
Gee thanks.

And about half a minute later, I was fine. I managed to forget about it for a while, because life happens and there are plenty of other things to look at and listen to. As much as I’d like to pretend I felt offended by his stuff that day, I sure wasn’t. It was more a case of, “Uh hey hey hey, that was kinda shit. What else’s on?”

To be offended by a tottied-up music video seems a bit Mormon to me. You can’t be a fan of, say… Beck or Aphex Twin or Peaches without watching something the camp counselor’s gonna get all precious about. I enjoy a lot of things that make other people uncomfortable just as I’m discomfited by a lot of things other people enjoy. Ehhhhhh and meh. There’s no accounting for taste when it comes to some things. It is what it is, etc.

But in this instance, couldn’t we have seen this coming? I sure did. As a kid, I was a big fan of anything R&B-like. I liked a lot of tracks that idealised a lady or women in general (I think I needed a lot more hugs than I was getting. Bless my journal-keeping, sketchbook-havin’, poem-writing heart. Awww.) especially if it involved rhetorical cleverness and a was a bit funny. More power to it if it rhymed. But I also liked it better if it left some of the power in her hands (not the battery-operated kind, we are not in the Hall of the Mountain Bike King, so that’s enough). I’ll let some of the lyrics speak for themselves:

Baby girl, you da shit.
That makes you my equivalent.
Well you can keep your toys in the drawer tonight,
All right?
All my dawgs talkin’ fast –
Ain’t you got some photographs?

Oh, I swear there’s something when she’s pumpin’,
Asking for a raise.
(Oooh) Well does she want me to carry her home now?
(Oooh) So does she want me to buy her things?

My friends at the time were able to find (read: make up) the chivalry in it all, but I really couldn’t. Something about the most earnest compliment in it all mentioning the word “shit”, probably. Although, once I did receive a Valentine with “ur tha sh*t cos i cn smel u” scrawled on a cardboard heart that smelled a lot like the body spray I used to like and it made me laugh Red Bull through my nose, which is somewhat painful. Maybe not as painful as having your expression of love laughed at… or liking a girl your friends think is a nerd, but I digress (Hi, Toby! I’m glad you found someone who likes Method Man as much as you do).

Anyway, When I Get You Alone seemed like some jerketeer’s neg-storm folded into some doctored wah-wahs, even to my silly wee shamelessly idealistic teen-girl ears. This is coming from someone who liked Sean Paul, for dying out loud. It just made me want to wash my hands and wear a hat and draw the curtains and get into the fetal position. Why? Because this guy wants you away from your friends so he can do stuff to you. Why? Because you walk city and because you talk city. He’s not leavin’ ’til you’re leavin’.

But should I really have freaked out so badly? It’s just a song, right? But all the girls I knew were so far into it that I got laughed straight to hell when I brought up how ‘rapey’ he sounded one afternoon in English class. It made me wonder… were we like all the girls just a handful of years before who loved R. Kelly, then found he was all fucked-up, just to wanna ignore it again and welcome it back in for the sake of reminiscence? Do we really wanna be like this? Sadly, the general consensus was YES WE DO ILENE SO SHUT UP LOSER OKAY. Well, shit. And holy shit, his dad.

Uh, yeah. Funny as all hell, but YEAH.

Now we’ve got shit like “Team Breezy” and that Jeremy Meeks guy and stuff. Seems you can be as slimy as you like if enough people think you’re aesthetically pleasing to someone. I know it’s hardly a new thing, but can we stop acting so shocked after the first time someone’s a bastard in the public domain if they do it again and / or worse? After all, André 3000 did say:

Sophistafunk, aristocats.
Distinguished stars, clean up your acts.
Pull up your pants.
Ladies and gents.
Please… act like you got some sense.

Oh, well. At least it’ll be easy enough to avoid Thicke’s awkward-as-shit “I want her back” stuff. But it’s funny though, right?

Further reading / another perspective: Let’s Stop Letting Robin Thicke – And Other Morally Unremarkable Celebrities – “Disappoint” Us, by Michelle Dean of Flavorwire (more on his dad also. “Dang, Pops.” Aw.)

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