Pharrell looks back at one of his biggest hits, “Blurred Lines,” with much more clarity these days. In GQ‘s New Masculinity issue, released on Monday, the artist-producer discussed the legacy of that song and how time has shifted his perception of it.
The 2013 single, which Pharrell recorded with Robin Thicke and T.I., almost immediately drew controversy for its predatory-sounding lyrics (“You’re a good girl/I know you want it”) and sexually explicit video — and it’s only aged poorly in the wake of the Me Too movement.
“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,” Pharrell told GQ, speaking generally of his career.”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.”
He went on to say that “Blurred Lines” was the moment that his perspective began to shift. “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?“
He continued, “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. Hadn’t realized that. Didn’t realize that some of my songs catered to that. So that blew my mind.”