“Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke (ft. Pharrell Williams & T.I.)
For all of the controversy the lyrics of “Blurred Lines” generated when it was first released, reading them now, almost a decade later, may have you wondering where exactly is the beef. Maybe this confusion, if you will, has something to do with the fact that now, songs of sexual seduction that are like a thousand times raunchier than this come out on nearly a daily basis.
But this track’s image would also likely have something to do with the literal type of imagery (i.e. music video, etc.) that was associated with this release. But our job today is just to analyze the lyrics. And again, it must be said from the onset that, all things considered, “Blurred Lines” is actually kind of lame – for lack of a better word – as far as contemporary sex songs go.
This piece was also obviously created as a dance track, so it commences with Thicke, buttressed by his homey Pharrell, admonishing “everybody [to] get up”, i.e. get their boogie on. And that takes us into the first verse, where the meaning of the title is first alluded to. For here, it is revealed that what the narrative is based on is Robin kicking it to some lady, i.e. the addressee.
And whereas he’s convinced that he has relayed undeniable communications pointing to his feelings to her, he also seems to be under the impression that maybe she hasn’t gotten the message.
“Blurred Lines” contains Inappropriate Lyrics?
And leading into the chorus, that’s sort of where the ‘rapey-ness’, as some people have described this track, comes into play. Or viewed from a different perspective, it’s as if the vocalist never entertains the possibility that maybe, just maybe the addressee ain’t interested in him. To the contrary, he ‘knows she wants it’.
Indeed the further implication is that she indeed does not, i.e. conscientiously making a decision not to date Robin as, unlike him, she is actually a “good” person. But Thicke doesn’t seem to be having any of that. Instead the way he sees it, her ex was oppressive and resultantly suppressed homegirl, let’s say the addressee’s sexuality in particular. So now the vocalist is here to “liberate” her as, based on his estimation, she must have a lot of pent-up sexual energy.
And yes, even if you do believe that about a certain lady that you’re trying to pick up, coming out and bluntly saying it to her, as is this song, is kinda creepy.
But T.I.’s verse does a better job of driving home what this all may actually be about in the eyes of himself and his cohorts. Dudes like this telling a woman they want to sleep with her, which is in fact the conclusive sentiment of Robin’s missive, is so common that it doesn’t justify actually dropping a song about.
So what “Blurred Lines” is actually based on is the vocalist trying to convince the addressee(s) to leave her man and hook up with him. And again, T.I. is more effective in presenting himself as someone whose goal is to urge the apple of his eye in this direction, as opposed to Thicke who, in the earlier goings in particular, seems a bit like he’s not willing to take no for an answer.
Or unlike T.I., whose main strategy consists of depicting himself as a “nice guy” to the addressee, Robin decides to rely on his sexual prowess, in a roundabout way, as his main selling point.
So by the time all is said and done, if you have a sex-based song featuring a singer and a rapper, and the latter actually proves more civil than the former, then perhaps such is a cause for alarm. Or going back to what we implied earlier about the evolution of the music industry over the last decade, that observation was made primarily with rap music in mind – a genre in which artists traditionally don’t give AF.
That is to say that ultimately, whether “Blurred Lines” is actually deemed offensive or not would likely depend on what type of listener is taking it in. If it is someone who, say grew up listening to hip-hop or one of the more outspoken genres, these lyrics may not raise any eyebrows. But for a more mainstream-minded audience yes, after digging a bit deeper into these words, it is understandable how they may be potentially upset, most notably by Thicke’s persistence. And this is something that even Pharrell has come to realize about “Blurred Lines” as time has progressed.
When was “Blurred Lines” released?
“Blurred Lines” is a song that Interscope Records released in conjunction with Star Trak Entertainment, a label The Neptunes co-founded back around the turn of the century, on 26 March 2013.
A Huge Hit Song!
It proved one of the most conspicuous mega-hits in history – for example being labeled by The Guardian as “the most controversial song of the decade”. That is to say that despite generating the type of success story that most musicians can only dream of, “Blurred Lines” also set Robin Thicke on his way to becoming sort of a pariah on the music scene.
For instance, this song is the title track of Robin Thicke’s sixth album, an also very successful project. The said album actually topped both the UK Albums Chart and Billboard 200. Furthermore, it recorded notable international sales.
Meanwhile his album that came after it, “Paula” (2014), performed relatively humbly, not achieving any certifications in any country. And this is despite the fact that it was officially released less than a year after the issuance of its predecessor.
Indeed within that short amount of time, this song managed not only to generate a bunch of controversy in terms of its lyrical content, which disturbed many. But also late in 2013 came the lawsuit which went on to make this one of the most infamous hits in history.
The Lawsuit (“Blurred Lines” vs. “Got to Give It Up”)
The said lawsuit centered on similarities between “Blurred Lines” and a song the late Marvin Gaye (1939-1984) dropped all the way back in 1977 entitled “Got to Give It Up“. Now this all actually began, believe it or not, with Robin Thicke and his co-vocalists on this tune, T.I. and most notably Pharrell (since the latter also produced the track), filing a lawsuit against the Gaye family, not vice versa. But the reason they did so was because they knew they were about to get sued by said family in the near future.
It was never denied that the sound of “Got to Give It Up” directly inspired that of “Blurred Lines”. But the artistic community and legal community viewed this fact from different perspectives. As for the latter, to make a long story short the courts ultimately ruled in favor of the Gaye family. At the end of the day, Robin Thicke and his cohorts had to pay millions of dollars to Gaye’s family.
An Unfair Verdict?
But many professional musicians deemed this verdict as being unfair, or let’s say unrealistic in terms of how music is actually created, i.e. current works being naturally inspired by older ones. And those who fought back collectively and legally, on behalf of Robin Thicke you may say, included the likes of Fall Out Boy, Danger Mouse, Linkin Park, Jennifer Hudson and others.
But at the end of the day, the courts shot that down also. And in reality the total judgment that was awarded to the Gaye family via Thicke and co. was somewhere in the region of $7,000,000. This therefore made “Blurred Lines” by far the biggest hit in the Prince of Motown’s career. In other words, “Got to Give It Up” was now officially acknowledged as being interpolated into “Blurred Lines”.
As such Marvin Gaye – right along with Robin Thicke, Pharrell and T.I. – is a credited author of this song. And so is (according to Genius) one of Gaye’s associates, Ed Townsend (1929-2003), even though he is not recognized as a writer of “Got to Give It Up”.
And again, the legal beef surrounding this track, though historically significant, wasn’t the only controversy, as its content rubbed some people the wrong way also. This included a number of British universities, which proceeded to ban the tune.
So for instance, we have Pharrell, upon maturing, publicly admitting that some of the wording was in bad taste. And Robin Thicke, even to this day, has done his best not to let all of the disappointments associated with this piece distract him from why he chose this career path in the first place, which is his love of making and performing music.
But as alluded to earlier, whereas “Blurred Lines” may have been the song that really put him on the map, it was also the one that more or less derailed his music career.
Indeed, we haven’t even gotten around to Robin Thicke’s performance of this song, buttressed by ever-controversial Miley Cyrus, at the 2013 edition of the MTV VMAs. Yes, it can be said that said presentation, i.e. the infamous Miley Cyrus twerking incident, achieved its primary goal, as it went absolutely viral. But it also proved to be somewhat of a PR disaster for both parties involved, as many viewers felt the performance was too sexualized or embarrassing in other ways.
So conclusively, let’s just say whereas it did make “Blurred Lines” (and Miley Cyrus) more renowned overall, it didn’t help Thicke’s image any.
Even More Controversy!
And even to this day, this song continues to curse him in other ways. For instance, the official music video to this piece, as put together by experienced director Diane Martel, relies heavily on sexual (i.e. nude) imagery itself.
In fact it does so to the point where for a time, said clip was banned from YouTube. But anyway, in that regard some professional models were hired, including one Emily Ratajkowski. Well as recently as October of 2021, Ratajkowski has gone about claiming that Robin Thicke actually sexually assaulted her while they were making the video. However, she didn’t attribute said action to him being some type of a ho-ny jacka-s but rather Robin being heavily boozed at the time.
More about the Achievements of “Blurred Lines”
Prior to “Blurred Lines”, Robin Thicke’s biggest hit was a 2007 track entitled “Lost Without U” which did quite well on its own, especially in the US. Outside of that the earlier days of his discography, which dates back to 2003, don’t read like anything exceptional.
In fact one has to believe that his come-up was buttressed by the fact that Robin is a celebrity offspring. He is actually the son of Alan Thicke (1947-2016), the Hollywood actor of Growing Pains fame.
But “Blurred Lines” itself was a smash hit. Charting in nearly 40 nations overall, it topped music charts in over half of them. This includes accomplishing said feat on the following prestigious charts:
- Billboard Hot 100
- UK Singles Chart
- Canadian Hot 100
And as far as its commercial performance, it achieved RIAA-diamond certification stateside. It also went diamond in France. Thus far it has gone nine-times platinum in Australia and Canada. “Blurred Lines” has been certified multi-platinum in the UK and in a bunch of other countries.
Being listed at nearly 15,000,0000 copies sold as of the writing of this post, “Blurred Lines” ranks amongst the most-successful music singles in history.
FYI: In addition to the United States, Canada and Britain, “Blurred Lines” was also number 1 hit in these countries:
- New Zealand
- South Africa