Pharrell Williams is opening up about his feelings toward some of his older, more controversial songs.
The 46-year-old artist sat down with GQ for their New Masculinity issue to discuss his thoughts on evolving masculinity in relation to his hit song “Blurred Lines,” which he recorded in 2013 with Robin Thicke and T.I.
The song’s lyrics — and very racy video — earned a great deal of backlash from critics who deemed the song “rapey,” as GQ recalled. Today, Williams admits that he’s “embarrassed” by elements of the track.
“Some of my old songs, I would never write or sing today,” he told the outlet. “I get embarrassed by some of that stuff. It just took a lot of time and growth to get to that place.”
“I didn’t get it at first,” Williams said of “Blurred Lines” specifically. “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?”
However, Williams later understood that his lyrics could quickly be twisted in today’s society.
“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…[I] didn’t realize that some of my songs catered to that,” he shared.
However, Williams also revealed that songs like “Happy” had a much more sentimental affect on him — to the point of bringing him tears of joy.
“When I do stuff for other people, that allows me to channel things for them, and so the universe set up the perfect conditions to get me to write a song like that. That made me cry. It literally made me cry. Like, I was on the Oprah show for my birthday, and she showed me a video of people around the world singing that song, and that shit f—d me up.”
The artist added that ever since releasing “Happy,” he hasn’t since been able to replicate such a positive musical experience.
“So I don’t beat on my chest. I haven’t been the same since any of that music,” he said.
However, Williams has continued to spread positivity throughout the world with his good deeds.
While giving the commencement speech at the graduation ceremony for the 2019 class of Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy in July, the singer announced to the 114 graduates that he had guaranteed internship opportunities for every student after their first year of college.
“The world is watching Harlem, but this renaissance will be different,” Williams said during his speech to graduates on June 26. “Believe it or not … it’s going to actually be better. The reason why is because the new Harlem Renaissance has education at its core.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Williams had been working with the school to create the internship program that would help students gain access to opportunities they may not get otherwise. The ultimate goal is to help them finish college, ending the cycle of generational poverty prevalent in the area.