Pharrell says backlash to Blurred Lines made him realise ‘we live in a chauvinist culture’

Grammy Award-winning artist said he was ‘embarrassed’ by the attitude towards women in some of his older songs

Roisin O'Connor
Music Correspondent
Monday 14 October 2019 16:23
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Pharrell says backlash to Blurred Lines made him realise ‘we live in a chauvinist culture’

Pharrell Williams has said that the backlash he faced over his Robin Thicke and T.I. collaboration “Blurred Lines“ opened him up to a different view of women.

The Grammy Award-winning artist and producer was featured in a rare interview with GQ magazine, where he discussed issues including the #MeToo movement, climate change, and his career.

Asked whether the #MeToo movement was what made him realise certain things ”would never fly today” – such as some of his own songs that he gets “embarrassed by now” – he said it was in fact “Blurred Lines” and the reaction it sparked that caused the change.

“I didn’t get [the controversy] at first,” he said. “Because there were older white women, who, when that song came on, they would behave in some of the most surprising ways ever... 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 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 realised we were living in a chauvinist culture in our society,” he added. “Didn’t realise some of my songs catered to that. So that blew my mind.”

Pharrell went on to contrast the reaction to “Blurred Lines”, his upbeat hit about feeling positive, and how the reaction “literally made me cry”.

“I was never the same,” he said, referring to a time when Oprah showed him a video of people around the world singing the song for his birthday. “I haven’t been the same since any of that music.”

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Last year, a final verdict ruled that Pharrell and Robin Thicke must pay $5 million to the family of Marvin Gaye, after they were accused of copying Gaye’s hit song “Got to Give it Up”. The five-year legal battle was closely scrutinised by the music industry and sparked a number of similar copyright cases.

You can read the full GQ interview here.

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