You know Pharrell Williams. You remember the soundtrack in the scene in Despicable Me 3 where Gru is prancing around (incidentally the best scene in the movie). You know the 2013 song of the summer, ‘Get Lucky’. Most importantly, you remember the controversial song that overtook the aforementioned song’s race to number 1 in the charts.
Pharrell Williams was the man of the summer in 2013. ‘Get Lucky’, with its chic instrumentals and Daft Punk-lent charisma was an instant, uncontroversial hit. The worst that could be attributed to the song is that it’s a bit thirsty. Whereas ‘Blurred Lines’, with its ironic Marvin Gaye sample ‘Got to Give it Up’ rendered into a Muzak-style backing was both annoying and a thousand times worse in its message.
Let’s just write off its co-creator Robin Thicke as a highly problematic individual. The incident at the 2013 VMAs where Miley Cyrus twerked against him undoubtedly contributed to the infamous reputation of the song, but let’s also remember that Robin Thicke had a wife and children when it happened. Showbiz can scratch out the unpleasant details; it’s not like songs with dubious messages haven’t been popular in the past – consider the lyrics in Lady Gaga and R Kelly’s collaboration ‘Do What U Want’, The Weeknd’s ‘Starboy’ and about half of Jason Derulo’s discography.
So what’s sweet Pharrell doing co-creating this sleazy anthem? He claims it was misguidedness; ‘I [later] realised we live in a chauvinist culture in our country’, he said to GQ in its ‘New Masculinity’ issue. Despite his eternally youthful face, Williams was 40 years old when the song was released, which begs the question as to why he hadn’t realised that we live in a gender-prejudiced culture before.
He takes this a step further by claiming that he hadn’t realised the language of the song resembled the language used in rape culture, linking his newly discovered woke-ness to the #MeToo movement. What he means, of course, is that he didn’t realise the context of the song would change from being mildly unacceptable yet tolerated in 2013, to straight-up impermissibly immoral and insensitive in 2019.
On the basis of fundamental human morality, the song was always unacceptable. There’s no way that Robin Thicke’s decrying, catchy trill that he ‘hates these blurred lines’ of consent could be anything but toxic. And let’s not even open the can of controversy that is the music video. At no point does William’s delighted face surrounded by topless models betray a hint of uncertainty or concern that what he is doing or singing could be considered immoral. Although the song and video’s ban in multiple student unions was accused of being over-sensitive, it was effectively a pre-emptive measure against the detrimental consequences of its exposure.
Thus, the apology is public backtracking to a more extreme extent than Robin Thicke’s limp suggestion that the song is a ‘bad joke’. Pharrell has the prerogative to have his words broadcast to a large audience. If most people were partially responsible for creating ‘Blurred Lines’, they’d try to rewrite the past too.
Image: Lovermusicr28 via Wikipedia