A Massive Hit With Massive Backlash
"Blurred Lines" was one of the biggest hits of 2013 thanks to its insanely catch beat, but the Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams joint faced some major backlash when people stopped dancing along and actually listened to the lyrics.
In a new interview with GQ for its New Masculinity issue, superstar producer and singer Pharrell opened up about how his perspective on sexism changed after the controversy.
Opening His Eyes
Lyrics like "You’re a good girl/I know you want it" have aged like milk, especially in the wake of Me Too, and Pharrell addressed how he's grown in his understanding of misogyny since the song's release.
"I was also born in a different era, where the rules of the matrix at that time allowed a lot of things that would never fly today. Advertisements that objectify women. Song content. Some of my old songs, I would never write or sing today. I get embarrassed by some of that stuff. It just took a lot of time and growth to get to that place."
After the infamous performance of Thicke and Miley Cyrus at the 2013 MTV Music Video Awards, Pharrell really took a long, hard look at the song.
"I didn’t get it at first. Because there were 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. So when there started to be an issue with it, lyrically, I was, like, ‘What are you talking about?’ 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?’"
Changing His Perspective
Since then, Pharrell has done the work to understand the perspective of women.
"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."
Ultimately, Pharrell wanted to examine his own perpetuation of sexism and move forward in a different direction.
"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."