Pharrell brought up the controversy surrounding Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines”, which Pharrell produced in 2013.
(As you’ll see, I don’t have to bring up the “Blurred Lines” controversy from 2013—the one where the lyrics of the song he cowrote and produced for Robin Thicke were deemed “rapey”—because he does.)
“When did things shift for you? As you said, it’s not the masculinity that’s new, it’s the conversation. Which really kicked off with #MeToo. Was your awakening related to that timetable?
No. I think “Blurred Lines” opened me up. I didn’t get it at first. 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 rapey about that?
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. 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 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 then here comes “Happy,” a record that I didn’t write for myself, that I ended up being on, that made people feel happy. I wrote that song for CeeLo. I don’t have the capacity to write that kind of song for myself. When I do songs for myself, they’re always too complicated, and too smart, with six bridges. Because I’m weird like that. But when I do stuff for other people, that allows me to channel things for them, and so the universe set up the perfect conditions to get me to write a song like that. That made me cry. It literally made me cry. 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 f- 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.”
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