Not Even Pharrell Backs ‘Blurred Lines’ Anymore
""My mind opened up to what was actually being said in the song and how it could make someone feel."
It all began with three keyboard bleeps and a commanding yell, demanding “Errybody get up!”
Both were provided by Pharrell Williams, who assisted in propping up what ended up being simultaneously one of the biggest and most controversial hit singles of the 2010s: Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’. Although the song topped the charts around the world, it was met with hostility and criticism in an almost-unanimous online backlash on account of its lyrics and ties to the building blocks of rape culture.
Although the three men involved – Thicke, Williams and rapper T.I. – all stood by the song at the time, the six intervening years has seen the mood increasingly sour around it. A lot of it has had to do with an exhaustive lawsuit against both Williams and Thicke, in which the estate of Marvin Gaye claimed copyright infringement due to the eerie similarities between ‘Blurred Lines’ and Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up.’
In a recent interview with GQ for their masculinity issue, Williams spoke about the controversy surrounding one of the biggest hits of his career. Speaking about ‘Blurred Lines’ within the framework of the #MeToo era, Williams openly admits he didn’t understand why people were upset.
“[I thought] there are women who really like the song and connect to the energy that just gets you up,” he says. “And ‘I know you want it’ — women sing those kinds of lyrics all the time. So it’s like, ‘What’s rapey about that?’”
This correlates with previous defences he has given the song in the past, describing the song as “misconstrued.” Over time, however, he’s changed his tune.
“I realised that there are men who use that same language when taking advantage of a woman,” he says. “It doesn’t matter that that’s not my behaviour… It just matters how it affects women. And I was like, ‘Got it. I get it. Cool.’
“My mind opened up to what was actually being said in the song and how it could make someone feel. Even though it wasn’t the majority, it didn’t matter. I cared what they were feeling too. I realised that we live in a chauvinist culture in our country… Didn’t realise that some of my songs catered to that.”
It’s a sobering degree of self-reflection from a man who, 15 years ago, penned the lyric “Her arse is a spaceship I want to ride”. Good for you, Pharrell.
If it’s of interest, you can read the entire GQ feature here. Plenty of interesting bits of food for thought in there from a man who is learning and evolving every day.
Thicke, meanwhile, has been out of the music game since 2015. He’s currently one of the judges on the American version of Masked Singer… so, basically, he’s America’s version of Hughesy. Or Dannii. Who’s to say, really.
Watch ‘Blurred Lines’ below. Or, if you’d prefer not to, watch Weird Al’s ‘Word Crimes’ instead.