Having previously defended the lyrics to Blurred Lines, songwriter Pharrell admits he now understands and is embarrassed by the controversy.
Pharrell Williams has backtracked over his stance on Blurred Lines, the controversial 2013 song that he wrote and produced.
The track, created in collaboration with Robin Thicke, was a worldwide hit, with a provocative video that helped to launch the career of model-actor Emily Ratajkowski.
It also provoked a fierce backlash from consent campaigners, who argued that the lyrics – including “I hate these blurred lines, I know you want it” and “Must wanna get nasty” – promoted a culture of date rape. Some clubs and university campuses banned it from their playlists.
In a new interview with GQ magazine, Pharrell admits he “didn’t get” the controversy at first; but now he understands “what was actually being said in the song and how it could make someone feel”.
“‘I know you want it’ – women sing those kinds of lyrics all the time. So it’s like, ‘What’s rapey about that?’” the singer recalls, in a wide-ranging conversation about new masculinity.
“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.”
“I realized that we live in a chauvinist culture in our country,” he adds. “Hadn’t realized that. Didn’t realize that some of my songs catered to that. So that blew my mind.”
Pharrell, a self-styled feminist, previously defended the lyrics he composed in Blurred Lines.
“You have to make sure that you’re coming from a decent place,” he said in a 2015 interview with the Independent. “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 dancefloor. What’s wrong with that? I know I want it.”
Ratajkowski, who has since built a movie career from films such as Gone Girl, went onto describe Blurred Lines as the “bane of my existence”.
In an interview several years on from the release, the actor said people still asked her about it all the time: “I’m like, ‘Are we seriously talking about a video from three years ago?’”
In his latest comments on the issue, Pharrell says his viewpoint has evolved: “Some of my old songs, I would never write or sing today,” he says. “I get embarrassed by some of that stuff. It just took a lot of time and growth to get to that place.”