Robin Thicke, the R&B crooner with the sensual vocals, is reigning at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart with his summertime hit, “Blurred Lines.” The top spot is a first for the singer, but his ascension has been met with considerable criticism.
Feminists and advocacy organizations are chiding Thicke for promoting rape in his “Blurred Lines” lyrics.
Feminist in LA blogger Lisa Huynh initiated the backlash in an April blog post. She writes:
Basically, the majority of the song (creepily named “Blurred Lines”) has the R&B singer murmuring “I know you want it” over and over into a girl’s ear. Call me a cynic, but that phrase does not exactly encompass the notion of consent in sexual activity.
The pop tunes actual lyrics read:
Good girl/I know you want it/I know you want it/I know you want it/You’re a good girl/Can’t let it get past me/You’re far from plastic/Talk about getting blasted/I hate these blurred lines/I know you want it/I know you want it/I know you want it/But you’re a good girl/The way you grab me/Must wanna get nasty/Go ahead, get at me
Offended listeners, including Huynh, are also dissatisfied with the uncensored version of the video. YouTube banned the initial images, citing the use of near-naked models. Thicke released an alternative version of the “Blurred Lines” video, which has garnered mass acclaim. The second video mirrors the first, but the models are clothed (in plastic tops) and lewd language has been censored.
Critics still aren’t impressed with its 50 million views benchmark and some are disappointed in Thicke’s pivot for love-making music to “rapey” content.
“Oh, and the music video! Not only does it feature three girls baring bare breasts throughout the entire song (along with nude-colored thongs), but it also obnoxiously interrupts the already disturbing scene to blare #THICKE in big, bold, red letters every 10 seconds,” Huynh writes. “Is this some Big Brother brainwashing technique? Who told him that this was a good idea? Not to mention the an entire clip dedicated to balloon letters spelling out ‘Robin Thicke has a big dick.’
Canadian model Amy Davison agrees with Huynh. She released a video on YouTube titled “Robin Thicke is a dick” to explain her contention with the clip.
“The women are clearly being used as objects to reinforce the status of the men in the video. The men have all the control and status because they are not vulnerable—they are completely covered. Whereas the women have no status and are totally open to be exploited ogled and used,” she said. “It doesn’t jibe with me.”
On the flip side, some don’t see the big deal. Frannie Kelley, an editor at NPR Music, credits the video’s director Diane Martel for pushing the envelope.
“I think it’s really fun,” she told the Daily Beast. “We feel a certain type of way about seeing men completely clothed next to almost completely naked women and that’s what gives it the frisson. When they’re clothed it feels like he’s walking up to a line and agreeing to obey it. And when they’re not clothed, he’s like acknowledging the line and he’s stepping right over it.”
She doesn’t see the issue with the video or the lyrics, especially when compared to other offensive imagery like The Dream’s “P***y* video.
“I feel more like, more violated by people trying to tell me that that song and video is problematic than I do by that song and video. Honestly,” she said.
Thicke is riding on the success of the single. He sees no issue with the song’s message or the video.
“Nudity is the least offensive thing in the whole world. Guns, violence, war? That’s offensive,” he said in an interview with Vh1. “A woman’s body has been painted and sculpted and talked about since the beginning of man. What I enjoy about the video is that we’re not ogling and degrading them, we’re laughing and being silly with them.”
The singer admits he pushed the boundaries, but in a sex-positive direction.
“We pretty much wanted to take all the taboos of what you’re not supposed to do—bestiality, you know, injecting a girl in her bum with a five-foot syringe—I just wanted to break every rule of things you’re not supposed to do and make people realize how silly some of these rules are.”