Pharrell Didn't Initially Understand 'Rapey' Criticism Of 'Blurred Lines' Because Older White Ladies Went Wild When It Played
The producer, singer and songwriter said the controversy about "Blurred Lines" caused him to rethink sexuality in contemporary society.
In a GQ cover story, Pharrell Williams reflected on the controversy surrounding one of his biggest songs that later led to a lawsuit, Page Six reported.
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The cover story discusses “Blurred Lines” in-depth, a track featuring Robin Thicke and T.I. The song, which was the biggest hit of 2013 according to The Guardian, was chastised by some who felt some of the lyrics were “rapey” and encouraged sexual harassment.
“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,” Williams said.
“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?’” the 46-year-old said.
Williams said it wasn’t until he realized how some men used similar language with women that he understood the ideology behind the backlash.
“It doesn’t matter that that’s not my behavior. Or the way I think about things. It just matters how it affects women,” he said. “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,” Williams added.
Williams was also hit with a lawsuit for "Blurred Lines" that ordered him and Thicke to pay Marvin Gaye’s family $5 million for the sample from the 1977 single “Got to Give It Up,” Blavity reported.
Williams' interview with GQ also touched on LGBTQ rights, racism, social media and the 2020 election.
Williams, who was interviewed by the editor-in-chief of GQ Will Welch, discussed his work outside of music, including entrepreneurship, fashion as well as movies.
Williams also spoke about his male role models, which include his uncles on both sides of his family.
Still, the interview had portions that focused on Williams' belief that women and young people are driving many of today's most important political conversations.
"Man, what would the world be like if women held all of the highest positions worldwide?" Williams asked. "Women are waking up every day, more and more, to the fact that they have the power. Women, millennials, and the Gen-Zers have the power. And there are a lot of men who recognize their privilege, and they use it for good. We're such a capable species. We have the ability if we can just galvanize for good. The only thing we got to do is balance the scales. We have to understand power. And who has it."
"For a very long time, we've been made to think and believe that the power was with the older straight white male. But a lot of people are up now. It's one thing to say you're awake. When you're just awake, you're thinking, but your mind isn't all the way on yet. But when you're up, it's a very big difference. And that, to me, is incredibly exciting. These millennials are up. These Gen-Zers are up. A lot of these women are up. A lot of these men who recognize their privilege—they're up. That excites me."