In the last couple years we’ve changed our cultural lens to get a better understanding of the world around us. Like everyone else, Pharrell Williams is taking a hard new look — particularly at his 2013 hit with Robin Thicke, “Blurred Lines”
In a recent interview with GQ, the producer/songwriter spoke about the #MeToo movement and how it’s reshaped his understanding of the pop hit he co-wrote with Thicke. The song quickly sparked backlash, with listeners questioning its message on sexual consent. The Daily Beast went as far as to call the song “kind of rapey.”
Speaking candidly, the singer said he didn’t get the issue at first, especially considering the reactions he’d seen from “older white women who, when that song came on, they would behave in some of the most surprising ways ever. And I would be like, wow. They would have me blushing.” He went on, “There are women who really like the song and connect to the energy that just gets you up. And ‘I know you want it’ — women sing those kinds of lyrics all the time. So it’s like, ‘What’s rapey about that?'”
“And then I realized that there are men who use that same language when taking advantage of a woman, and it doesn’t matter that that’s not my behavior. Or the way I think about things. 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 realized that we live in a chauvinist culture in our country. Hadn’t realized that. Didn’t realize that some of my songs catered to that. So that blew my mind.”
The new stance is a 180 for the songwriter who, when asked about “Blurred Lines” back in 2013, told NPR’s Morning Edition plainly, “I think it’s very clear. There’s nothing misogynistic about it.”
Problematic lyrics aren’t the only issues the song has had, as it ran into some sonic controversy as well. Back in 2015, Thicke and Williams were ordered to pay $7.3 million dollars to Marvin Gaye’s estate for copyright infringement, a verdict multiple artists have rallied around to have overturned.