Pharrell Williams says he has learned a lot from the backlash to his and Robin Thicke’s 2013 collaboration ‘Blurred Lines’ as it “blew [his] mind” that some of his lyrics could be regarded as derogatory towards women and the controversy completely changed his attitude.
He said: “I was also born in a different era, where the rules of the matrix at that time allowed a lot of things that would never fly today. Advertisements that objectify women. Song content. Some of my old songs, I would never write or sing today. I get embarrassed by some of that stuff. It just took a lot of time and growth to get to that place.”
Asked if the #MeToo movement sparked his shift in attitude, he told the new issue of America’s GQ magazine: 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 realised 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 behaviour. 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 realised that we live in a chauvinist culture in our country. Hadn’t realised that. Didn’t realise that some of my songs catered to that. So that blew my mind. ”
And after the controversy, Pharrell shed tears of joy over the positive response to his next track, ‘Happy’, and admitted he’s never been the same since that period of time.
He continued: “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 fucked 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.”