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    Album review: POP

    Robin Thicke, ‘PAULA’

    Up until last year’s big, controversial hit, “Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke was well-known in some quarters for his falsetto prowess and sexy persona. But for most, he existed in a sort of cologne-clouded, sub-Timberlake netherworld of almost famous-ness in the shadows of the club.

    If listeners were unaware of the tabloid drama surrounding Thicke’s broken marriage to actress Paula Patton, his new album — named for his estranged wife and out Tuesday — might impress as having some of his strongest songs yet.

    Where previous efforts favored groove over melody and tedious, boilerplate sensuality, “PAULA” has tunes to spare, and makes some interesting musical choices in harder funk and soul directions. While still frequently predictable lyrically, Thicke also occasionally takes a couple of steps away from his formula.

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    But even cursory knowledge of their split makes this public and emotionally messy and revealing ploy for reconciliation teeter on, and sometimes fall over, the borderline into creepy territory.

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    Tunes like “Still Madly Crazy” and “Black Tar Cloud” offer a pleasingly gauzy piano ballad and a tense, quirkily retro track with a female Greek chorus of sorts, respectively. But listening closely and hearing that the former finds a man literally begging for his partner’s return, and the latter features a narrator chased by his golf-club wielding lover, the overall effect is beyond discomfiting. (Out Tuesday)

    SARAH RODMAN

    ESSENTIAL “Lock the Door”