After the 2013 single “Blurred Lines,” performed by Robin Thicke and featuring Pharrell Williams and T.I., became a bona fide smash, Pharrell found himself wondering why some people found the massive hit offensive or misogynistic (remember that enduring lyric: “I know you want it?”), while others just felt it was a bop. It took six long years, but in a new GQ interview, the performer, producer, and songwriter says he has since realized the truth: Oh, right, this is America. The song was probably both.
“I didn’t get it at first,” Williams said of the controversy around “Blurred Lines.” “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 rape-y about that?’”
However, after some consideration, Pharrell says he began to understand why the song rubbed people the wrong way. “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,” he explains. “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.”
And if maturity and thoughtfulness and our greater cultural conversation around consent weren’t enough to make Pharrell realize the power of pop music on society, his other huge 2013 hit, “Happy,” definitely brought the message home. “It literally made me cry,” he says. “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 fucked me up. Bad. I was never the same. So I don’t beat on my chest. I haven’t been the same since any of that music.”