Pharrell says he’s ‘embarrassed’ by Blurred Lines after defending it for years
He says he’s realised his songs ‘catered’ for sexism
Pharrell Williams has admitted he’s embarrassed about his song Blurred Lines and has realised some of his songs catered to sexist culture.
The 2013 song with Robin Thicke caused controversy and was called “rapey” because of its lyrics. It was banned at several universities and an advert featuring the song and models from the video was banned from daytime TV in 2013.
Some of the lyrics that sparked the controversy included: “I know you want it” and the implication that the “blurred line” was referring to consent.
Pharrell Williams has now spoken out about how he feels about the song and the backlash it caused. He said at first he didn’t understand why some people saw the lyrics as “rapey” and admits he’s “embarrassed” by some of the content of his songs.
In an interview with GQ, Pharrell said: “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.”
He added: “I think Blurred Lines opened me up. 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?’
“And then I realised 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 behaviour. 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 realised that we live in a chauvinist culture in our country. Hadn’t realised that. Didn’t realise that some of my songs catered to that. So that blew my mind.”
Despite the controversy, Blurred Lines spent five weeks at UK number one when it was released and it was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, where it stayed for 12 weeks.
Pharrell has previously defended the song. In an interview with Pitchfork in 2014, he said: “When you pull back and look at the entire song, the point is she’s a good girl, and even good girls want to do things, and that’s where you have the blurred lines.”
In an interview with The Independent’s Saturday arts magazine, Pharrell said: “I’d never want to say anything about sex. Like, ‘rape-y’ would mean, ‘I’m gonna do this to you, you know you want me to do that to you’.
“You have to make sure that you’re coming from a decent place. And I was coming from a decent place. Because when you look at the song in totality you realise that the song’s about a woman who wanted to… who felt something, but decided to take it out on the dance floor.”
Robin Thicke has also stood by the song since it’s release. In an interview with The New York Times in 2015, when asked about the song being called “rapey” he said: “Pharrell and I have never and would never write a song with any negative connotation like that. I think the song on its own — I don’t think that would have existed. Once the video came out, that changed the conversation.”