In the summer of 2013, the hit that took the nation by storm, “Blurred Lines,” by Robin Thicke, could be heard on what seemed to be almost every radio station in America. Its indeterminate lyrics and catchy tune made it easy to tap your toe and maybe even join in a couple “hey hey hey’s ? with Pharrell Williams. The video is near 3. 5 million hits on Youtube. It was the number one song for sixteen weeks in a row, (a new record for Billboard.
) And it had over five million downloads (legally) in its first thirty weeks. It was obviously a favorite– a song to define a summer. Yet this presented a problem much larger than the song itself; although its popularity was through the roof, the lyrics are among some of the more common phrases that are said to rape victims (Info from Project Unbreakable). These seemingly harmless words are a perpetuation of the “Rape Culture” that is becoming more and more prevalent today; and the acceptance of this song, and others like it, just goes to show how oblivious most people are to the vulgarity of what we listen to.
The song Blurred Lines (by Robin Thicke, featuring Pharrell Williams and T. I. ) debuted in March of 2013, and hit its peak later that summer. Since that time it has become one of the most controversial songs of the decade. While it was nominated for three Grammy Awards that year, Robin Thicke also took home the title of “Sexist of the Year” from the End Violence Against Women Coalition. Thicke’s MTV Video Music Awards performance of the song with Miley Cyrus was the most Tweeted about event in history, pulling in a record 360,000 tweets per minute.
It’s raunchy and inappropriate nature was a shock to many who saw the performance, and for those who missed it there were videos and pictures readily available on the internet within a couple hours. Overall there was a very mixed reception to the song, but by taking a closer look at the lyrics themselves we are able to see that those people who were upset with the artists had a right to feel that way. Blurred Lines begins with an invitation from Pharrell Williams for everybody who hears the song to join in with the artists, “Everybody get up! “? This is followed by Robin Thicke addressing a young woman in what is most likely a club or party atmosphere. He claims that her last boyfriend tried to “domesticate ? her, but she was too wild for him and that he (Thicke) can set her free from that constricting situation.
Then comes the chorus along with the lyrics that are the most relative to Rape Culture in this song; Thicke addresses this “wild ? woman as a “good girl, ? followed by the eerie echo of “I know you want it. ” He then goes on to say, “I hate these blurred lines. ? What are the lines he’s referencing? Within the context of the song it would seem that it is what has become the tragically gray area between consent and rape. Thicke claims that this woman’s actions are perpetuating his behavior because he knows what she wants, even though she has not said anything. Nothing makes this assertion clearer than the line, “You wanna hug me. What rhymes with hug me? ? this is followed by laughter, and he presumably wants “fuck me” to be inferred by the listener.
The next part of the song is a rap portion that is done by T. I. and is mostly unintelligible unless listened to closely, and even then some parts are indeterminate. He begins with asking a woman to sexually dance on him, and states that, “I had a bitch but she ain’t as bad as you,? implying that she is the “naughty” one in this situation.
He then tells her to hit him up if she’s around and he’ll give her “something big enough to tear (her) ass in two. This is likely a reference to anal sex, and the listener is left unsure of whether or not the woman ever consented to this act. He says that even when she’s dressed casually or normally he is having sexual thoughts about her, he would never let her get away from him, and that her last guy didn’t treat her like he will, (maybe because her last guy didn’t “smack her ass”? or “pull her hair”?). No matter who is singing in this song they are begging for female attention and waiting for acknowledgement, or consent, to their advances, but it never comes.
This song prompted many people to take action, and because of it new organizations have brought others to attention about the issues that surround rape, and what rape really is. The “No Blurred Lines”? campaign was set up by police in Devon and Cornwall England for new college students with the message that sex without consent is rape. They even used the popular Twitter trend of hashtags to make it more easily accessible, (#NoBlurredLines. ) Another campaign that is gaining headway is Project Unbreakable whose mission is to increase awareness of the issues surrounding sexual assault and encourage the act of healing through art. One of the more powerful articles they were involved with was a review of the song with pictures of victims holding up signs that had quotes from their attackers that all echo the lyrics to Blurred Lines. It’s a very powerful piece, especially when you can see the faces of people who have been sexually assaulted, what they were told, and who their attackers were.
Clearly some changes need to made in our culture if my nine-year-old sister can be heard singing songs akin to this one. She doesn’t know what she’s saying or promoting, but someday she may wish she had. This “rape culture ? and mentality that is seen prevalently today is wrong and needs to be righted. The lyrics to the song “Blurred Lines” are just one example of this, but the changes need to start somewhere. Through campaigns such as “No Blurred Lines” and Project Unbreakable many people are becoming more aware of the issues surrounding our culture, and what can be done to change it. By establishing a clear distinction between what is consent and what is rape there will hopefully be some turnaround, but there cannot be reliance on this alone.
Songs like “Blurred Lines” shouldn’t be produced at all, let alone go number one worldwide. The music industry has greater influence than we think, and by cleaning up not only song lyrics, but their videos as well, this could help promote female empowerment rather than degradation. Dominating ideas can be perpetuated subliminally through things like music, ads, and clothing, but once popular areas like these are turned toward an awareness of what they’re promoting exactly, then maybe there won’t be such acceptance of lyrics like the ones in “Blurred Lines. “