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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Pharrell Williams talks about realizing that "Blurred Lines" was "rapey"

Illustration for article titled Pharrell Williams talks about realizing that Blurred Lines was rapey
Photo: Theo Wargo (Getty Images for Global Citizen)

Robin Thicke, T.I., and Pharrell Williams’ “Blurred Lines” was a controversial song when it began to sweep the airwaves a few summers ago, but in the years that followed, all we ever really heard about was the argument over whether or not it ripped off a Marvin Gaye song (and we heard so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so much). Because of that, another controversy was left forgotten: “Blurred Lines” is a bad song with gross lyrics. Williams himself talked about that recently in a long GQ profile that is largely about his thoughts on toxic masculinity, saying that “Blurred Lines” is actually what made him realize that society is pretty damn misogynist.

He says that he “didn’t get it first” when the song first came out, referring to the idea that some of its lyrics (“you know you want it”) were—as he puts it—”rapey,” because he figured that “women sing those kinds of lyrics all the time.” Then he realized that “there are men who use that same language when taking advantage of a woman,” so even if he personally doesn’t act like that, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other men who do. Basically, it dawned on him that it doesn’t necessarily matter what he meant for the lyrics, “it just matters how it affects women.” From there, he says his “mind opened up to what was actually being said in the song and how it could make someone feel” and he started to notice that “we live in a chauvinist society.”

After that, Williams says he started thinking about the way some of his songs fed into that behavior, and it sounds like that was one of the reasons why he wrote “Happy”—so he could put something out into the world that was just overtly positive and optimistic.

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