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“Blurred Lines” is a song by R&B singer Robin Thicke with guest vocals by rapper T.I. and singer Pharrell, which known for its sexually explicit music video that has been the subject of remixes and parody videos on YouTube.
On March 15th, 2013, “Blurred Lines” was released as the lead single for Robin Thicke’s sixth studio album of the same name. Five days later on March 20th, the music video was released as both explicit and edited (shown below) versions, featuring Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell flirting with scantily clad models Emily Ratajkowski, Jessi M’Bengue and Elle Evans. As of August 2013, the censored YouTube upload has been viewed nearly 129 million times while the uncensored version has gained more than 8.7 million views.
Following its viral reception, Thicke revealed that Universal Interscope Records refused to fund the production of the music video, saying that the executives “didn’t get” the song, but he was able to secure the budget from Rémy Martin, a French cognac firm where Thicke and his wife serve as spokespeople.
On March 26th, 2013, Redditor WorkoutProblems submitted the explicit version of the video to the /r/Music subreddit, receiving over 8,600 up votes and 1,600 comments in the first three months. On March 30th, the unedited version of the video was removed from YouTube for violating the site’s terms of service regarding content containing nudity in a sexual context. On May 7th, the men’s interest blog GQ published an interview with Thicke, who responded to allegations that the music video was degrading toward women:
“We tried to do everything that was taboo. Bestiality, drug injections, and everything that is completely derogatory towards women. Because all three of us are happily married with children, we were like, ’We’re the perfect guys to make fun of this.’ People say, ‘Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?’ I’m like, ‘Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.’”
On May 12th, YouTuber Aja Dang uploaded a food-related parody of the Thicke video titled “#HungryGirl” (shown below, left). In one month, the video gained more than 530,000 views and 440 comments. On July 8th, YouTuber GarlicJacksonComedy uploaded a remix video featuring the opening sequence from the 1980s American comedy television show The Cosby Show with “Blurred Lines” dubbed over the background audio track (shown below, right).
On June 20th, Vimeo user Ryan Rapaport uploaded an edited version of the explicit music video that only features shots of Ratajkowski. The following day, Redditor godsgimp submitted Rapaport’s edit to /r/videos, where it accumulated upwards of 6,900 up votes and 880 comments in less than three weeks. On July 4th, YouTuber Laina Morris uploaded a Snapchat-related “Blurred Lines” parody (shown below), which gained over 180,000 views and 2,100 comments in the first week.
By late July, hundreds of “Blurred Lines” parodies had been uploaded to YouTube, resulting in a number of curated list articles on The Atlantic Wire, E! Online, Metro UK, The Daily Beast, She Knows, PolicyMic, the Toronto Sun and PopSugar. On August 1st, Thicke even participated in a parody music video himself during his appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (shown below), only using classroom instruments including a wood block, maracas and a cowbell. The parody video gained more than 8.2 million views in slightly more than a week.
On June 5th, 2013, Vice UK published a column article calling attention to the music video’s misogynistic portrayal of naked women next to a group of fully-clothed men. On June 17th, The Daily Beast published an article criticizing the song’s lyrics for being “creepy” and “trivializing consent” and the music video for treating women as sex objects. On June 26th, director Diane Martel, who also directed Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop,” was interviewed in Grantland about “Blurred Lines,” in which she explained she tried to set a balance to the lyrics by having the women constantly looking into the camera (shown below). The same day, Jezebel acknowledged that this fact changes the perspective slightly, but makes the video feel like “ironic objectification.”
On July 30th, Thicke made an appearance on the Today Show, during which the singer claimed that he saw the song as “a feminist movement within itself.” Thicke’s statement was promptly picked up by women’s interest and entertainment blogs including Jezebel, Complex Music, the Huffington Post, Perez Hilton and Policy Mic, many of whom pointed to a gender-swapped parody of the video (shown below) as a better example of feminist ideals.
Copyright Infringement Allegation
In August that year, Thicke filed a preemptive lawsuit against the family of Marvin Gaye and Bridgeport Music in response to the two parties’ allegations that “Blurred Lines” copied the “feel” and “sound” of the famous American R&B singer-songwriter’s 1977 disco single “Got to Give It Up” and illegally sampled the psychedelic soul band Funkadelic’s 1974 song “Sexy Ways.”
According to Thicke, the song was produced in collaboration with Pharrell Williams in less than an hour with a specific intention of creating a sound reminiscent of Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” Meanwhile, Pharrell simply refuted the validity of the allegation by calling the two songs “completely different” in an interview with ABC News:
“Just simply go to the piano and play the two. One’s minor and one’s major. And not even in the same key.”
Over a year after the filing of the lawsuit, the media attention surrounding the legal battle saw a significant resurgence when The Hollywood Reporter released several excerpts of Thicke’s statements as quoted in a deposition from the case, in which the singer stated that he was under the influence of alcohol and a prescription-strength pain reliever during the production of the song at the studio.
Q: Were you present during the creation of ‘Blurred Lines’?
Thicke: “I was present. Obviously, I sang it. I had to be there.”
Q: When the rhythm track was being created, were you there with Pharrell?
Thicke: "To be honest, that’s the only part where -- I was high on Vicodin and alcohol when I showed up at the studio. So my recollection is when we made the song, I thought I wanted -- I -- I wanted to be more involved than I actually was by the time, nine months later, it became a huge hit and I wanted credit. So I started kind of convincing myself that I was a little more part of it than I was and I -- because I didn’t want him -- I wanted some credit for this big hit. But the reality is, is that Pharrell had the beat and he wrote almost every single part of the song.”
On March 10th, 2015, the eight-member jury at a Los Angeles court voted unanimously in support of the Gayes family, ruling that Thicke and the song’s producer Pharrell Williams had infringed on the copyright by lifting the tune from Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up.” As a result of the verdict, the jurors ordered Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to pay a total of $7.4 million in restitution to the Gayes estate, while several other parties sued in the case, including the rapper T.I. and record labels, were cleared of any involvement in the infringement.
Speaking to the press outside of the court after the ruling, the famed singer’s daughter Nona Gaye issued a statement:
“Right now, I feel free. Free from … Pharrell Williams’ and Robin Thicke’s chains and what they tried to keep on us and the lies that were told.”
The Daily Beast – Blurred Lines Robin Thickes Summer Anthem is Kind of Rapey
Complex Music – Robin Thicke Says “Blurred Lines” Is A Feminist Movement
The Atlantic Wire – A Guide To the World of ‘Blurred Lines’ YouTube Parodies