Six years later, Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke's 2013 hit "Blurred Lines" remains controversial. There's the prolonged lawsuit that found the pair having to pay the estate of Marvin Gaye for similarities to the artist's 1977 song "Got to Give It Up," there's that infamous video, and there's the matter of the song's actual words. Lyrics like "I know you want it" left a bad taste not just for their raunchiness but for their proximity to date-rape culture.
In a new cover story with GQ, Pharrell explains how the song's reception opened up his grasp of masculinity. Not only did he learn how the unsettling the words are, but he also came to a new understanding of the culture that promotes songs like that one to exist in the first place.
During the course of his interview — the center of GQ's New Masculinity issue — he talks about his shift to understanding the new conversation surrounding masculinity. When asked about his awakening to the movement, he revealed that "Blurred Lines" was his moment. "I realize 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 said. "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."
"I realized that we live in a chauvinist culture in our country," he continued. "Didn't realize that some of my songs catered to that. So that blew my mind."
Pharrell also gave his personal meaning of masculinity as it relates to the current cultural conversation. "I think the truest definition of masculinity, it is the essence of you that understands and respects that which isn't masculine," he said. "If you ask me, when we talk about masculinity, it's also very racial, this conversation. Because the dominant force on this planet right now is the older straight white male. And there's a particular portion of them that senses a tanning effect. They sense a feminizing effect. They sense a nonbinary effect when it comes to gender."
Check out Pharrell's full GQ cover story in the link up above.