World famous Hip-Hop and R&B artist Robin Thicke released his biggest hit to date “Blurred Lines” in July of 2013. Featuring rappers T.I. and Pharrell Williams, and with an upbeat, fun sound, “Blurred Lines” has successfully topped charts in the United States and internationally, and has been named the best-selling single of 2013.
However, after taking a listen to the lyrics and watching the music video for “Blurred Lines” it is revealed that this top charted hit single is not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it is a song full of negative messages which promote and justify sexism, and non-consensual sex. The song has raised much controversy as many people are worried that Thicke’s hit has the potential to influence teenage listeners that rape is acceptable, when that is the last thing rape should ever be considered to be. Take a listen for yourself:
Thicke’s lyrics are found to be similar, if not the same to what many rape victims have actually experienced. Through Project Unbreakable, a project in which people hold hand-written signs quoting their attacker from the time they were raped or sexually assaulted, created by photography student Grace Brown at the School of Visual Arts, has several quotes which match up from lyrics to “Blurred Lines”:
Even though “Blurred Lines” sends several negative messages to listeners involving rape, sexism, and non-consensual sex, many teenage listeners will overlook the lyrics and enjoy the song, while some will realize what Thicke is singing about, and will not support it. The fact that the majority of listeners choose to ignore the message is the reason why this song has become so successful, and this is problematic because our society is failing to recognize what kinds of music we are willingly letting sail to the top of the charts. This in turn is making the music industry normalize these negative behaviors which will influence listeners that concepts such as non-consensual sex, rape, and sexism are acceptable because they are what is popularly sung about in current music. Observe a first hand account of how teenagers react to “Blurred Lines”:
After Observing how average teens react to “Blurred Lines”, I wanted to see how JMU students would react to the song with no information about what it is about. I played the song for two of my friends and asked them to tell me what they think of it, and then did the same with the unrated music video which is the same as the music video above, but with the models topless rather than clothed. JMU students react similarly to the teens above, where they enjoy the song because it is catchy and disregard the lyrics until they tie it together with the music video.
Kylie Spandra (Class of 2017): “It is a catchy beat but it takes away from the lyrics of the song and I didn’t realize what the song was about until I watched the video. It is a fun song and I used to hear it all of the time at parties. The music video was not my cup of tea.”
Molly Wolpert (Class of 2017): “The song sounds like a throwback to the 80’s and I really liked it but when I watched the music video I decided I didn’t like it anymore and it made me lose respect for Robin Thicke.”
The general public’s reactions to the song via twitter are similar to the ones above, but some have a better understanding of the negative message the song is sending than others:
Teenagers often have mixed reactions to “Blurred Lines” where some enjoy the song and some do not, but the lyrics and video convey such a negative message promoting rape and sexism that people need to recognize. People often underestimate popular culture and its influence on our younger generations, and if songs like “Blurred Lines” keep being released and soaring to the top of charts, it is likely that people will start to think rape and non-consensual sex is acceptable due to its wide popularity in the music industry. Teenagers today need to take a stand to stop songs like this from gaining popularity no matter how catchy they may be, because the negative messages they convey can easily influence listeners that rape is justified, increasing the number of victims of sexual assault and rape in society.
One celebrity who has stood up and has advocated for change in how popular culture views and treats women is English recording artist Lily Allen. Allen released a track called “Hard Out Here” where she sings about women empowerment and challenges feminine stereotypes that our society holds. “Hard Out Here” is also written in response to “Blurred Lines”. Allen references the song subtly in several places during “Hard Out Here” and she is standing up against the awful messages that “Blurred Lines” expresses. Here are some of her lyrics that go against Thicke’s views, and that challenge feminist roles in society, and her music video:
“You’ll find me in the studio and not in the kitchen”
“Don’t need to shake my ass for you ’cause I’ve got a brain”
“If you’re not a size six, then you’re not good looking”
“Don’t you want to have somebody who objectifies you?”
“And if you can’t detect the sarcasm, you’ve misunderstood”