Blurred Lines (Fisking Pop Songs)

glass-with-drink-clip-art_424673I listen to a lot of pop music. A LOT of pop music. I listen to pretty much anything on the radio, and dissect it all. There is almost no song I listen to that I have nothing good to say about. I’m a student of sociology and I love to listen to what everyone else is hearing to see what influences them. So when this song came on the radio, I loved the beat, the crooning, the harmony on the chorus and the overall feel of the classic R&B that is coming back into vogue these days. But I had a few thoughts…

“Blurred Lines”
(feat. T.I. & Pharrell Williams)
[Verse 1: Robin Thicke]
If you can’t hear what I’m trying to say
If you can’t read from the same page
Maybe I’m going deaf,
Maybe I’m going blind
Maybe I’m out of my mind

Pretty basic, he feels that what he is trying to say to the woman/women he is singing to is pretty clear. If its not clear, obviously you get to call him a lunatic. This is a classic technique used to silence people from criticizing, and it was used on me the other day. A man who I disagreed with on a point came back to me after the disagreement and proclaimed “You know I was just kidding, you know I’m not a male chauvinist pig, right? You know me well enough to know that.” I had never called the man a misogynist, or a male chauvinist pig, I’d never accused his character. However, to him, to disagree with his point, I either had to say he was crazy, aka give him a label that only crazy men get, or let the issue go. There was no middle ground, no option that validated that I had a right to challenge his beliefs.

[Pre-chorus: Robin Thicke]
OK now he was close, tried to domesticate you
But you’re an animal, baby it’s in your nature
Just let me liberate you
You don’t need no papers
That man is not your maker

“He” must be a previous lover/boyfriend who Robin believes didn’t “get” this girl. The whole song talks about what this woman is, not about what she does. Robin doesn’t judge by actions or words from this woman, he judges by “instinct” that her nature is different than what she presents it to be.

[Chorus: Robin Thicke]
And that’s why I’m gon’ take a good girl
I know you want it
I know you want it
I know you want it
You’re a good girl

Robin is absolutely certain that he is going to “take a good girl”, meaning he will now be in charge of her education, sexual freedom and expression of her innate nature. Possessive words like “take” imply aggression and ownership. Again, the woman has no agency, except in the image that she portrays of a “good girl” and obviously, that image isn’t correct, so she needs to be reeducated.

Can’t let it get past me
You’re far from plastic
Talk about getting blasted

The woman is an “it”, or possibly her body parts are an ‘it’, aka her breasts, as they are “far from plastic” and thus worthy of his attention. I’ve recently come to an agreement with Penn Jillette on this issue, that the measure of how attractive a woman’s breasts are depend on how much the person who owns them likes the breasts. This is an issue that will show people’s personal biases much more than they realize. Just bring up plastic surgery and breast implants to your friends, chances are there will be one person with body modifications like piercings, tattoos or some kind of past cosmetic surgery who will speak against “fake boobs”.

Also, this may be the only place where “she” could be implied to have said something. If we take this as meaning she was talking about getting blasted (aka drunk), this could clear up why Robin thinks this otherwise “good girl” is actually an animal who wants more than just drinking and dancing. However, this still shows a leap in logic that getting drunk means wanting sex. If it is Robin who is talking about getting blasted, then maybe it is a little more innocent, just something to steel his nerves before proposing sex.

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

Here is the crux of the song. I’m not the first feminist to take exception to “I know you want it”, but I want to point out here that they are preceded by the sentence which actually contains the title of the song “I hate these blurred lines”. In an interview, Robin clarified this part of the song, saying it referred to “the good-girl/bad-girl thing and what’s appropriate.” It seems that Pharell and Robin were trying to comment on the subject of the Madonna/Whore complex, and what it meant to men in the club. So what statement are they trying to make?

I hate these blurred lines
Hate. That’s what stands out to me. The word hate states in no uncertain terms that blurring of lines between categories is unacceptable. Women should fit neatly into one or the other, and not flirt with crossing lines, if they don’t want to be assumed to “want it”.
In a quote from another article, Robin said of the process of writing the song,, “Him (Pharell) and I would go back and forth where I’d sing a line and he’d be like, ‘Hey, hey, hey!’ We started acting like we were two old men on a porch hollering at girls like, ‘Hey, where you going, girl? Come over here!'”
=screeching tire sound= Wait, hold up. He…he said it for me. Pretty much verbatim what is wrong with this song, it was INTENDED and acknowledged by the lyricist. Next he’s going to say that he was doing this because he was privileged enough not to be called on it…
“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.’”
AH. I see. Its a PARODY, you guys weren’t actually enjoying writing about rapey behaviours, its to draw attention to the phenomenon, and spark a dialogue. Cool. I have to admit, my review needs to take a different tack then, obviously I need to stop trying to prove that the statements are meant to be sexy, but come across as controlling, domineering and ignorant of women’s agency. All that was intended, so I should instead be explaining where they could clarify to bring attention to the issue of objectification in a positive way…
“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.'”
Pleasure? It was a pleasure?

“So we just wanted to turn it over on its head and make people go, “Women and their bodies are beautiful. Men are always gonna want to follow them around.”
See, when people say they want to turn the issue on its head, they usually mean they want to make a statement that very few other people are making. “Men are always gonna want to follow them (women) around” is the exact statement the majority is making as a knee jerk response to women asking not to be harassed every day, all the time.

“The whole point was to go over the top, knock down the ceiling, jump over the wall and say, we’re gonna do things everyone is afraid to do, as brash and fearless as possible.”
Please someone explain to me how doing a music video with all topless women is something everyone else is “afraid to do”? A quick google search of “music videos with nudity” brings up a Rolling stone article that lists the “top 15 most NSFW Music Videos of all time” which includes bands from From Duran Duran, Queen and Mötley Crüe to Madonna and Nelly. Pretty mainstream, and with an over 40 year history included just in that one list alone, I’m sure its safe for me to assert that not “everyone” is afraid of nudity and objectification.

The way you grab me
Must wanna get nasty
Go ahead, get at me

Ah, I lied. Here is an action that the woman has done. She grabbed him on the dance floor. Possibly implying that she groped him, or could be as innocent as grabbing his hand or shoulder as they dance, or gyrating her hips against him as she grabs his hips. Any one of those actions could be misleading if the girl doesn’t want “it” and the man is hoping for “it”, as men have feelings and hopes too. But hoping to get laid is different than making a conclusion that she “must want to get nasty” if she does something while dancing. Sorry, nope. I’ve danced with plenty of men at clubs, seen plenty of women friends dance with men at clubs, and seen plenty of them leave and go back home alone, completely happy to be so.

[Verse 2: Robin Thicke]
What do they make dreams for
When you got them jeans on
What do we need steam for
You the hottest bitch in this place

Side note, in the radio edit, the song goes “You the hottest ‘OH!’ in this place” which sounds like ho and I wondered how they got that on the radio. I’m not sure which is better or worse, TBH.

I feel so lucky
Hey, hey, hey
You wanna hug me
Hey, hey, hey
What rhymes with hug me?
Hey, hey, hey

This is probably my favorite line in the song (completely unironically). I love it when people say/sing they feel lucky because someone chose them, and its actually cute to use the euphemism “hug me”.  I think I like it so much because it hearkens back to some of the “classic” pop songs of the 50s and 60s.

[Verse 3: T.I.]
One thing I ask of you
Let me be the one you back that ass to
Yo, from Malibu, to Paribu
Yeah, had a bitch, but she ain’t bad as you
So hit me up when you passing through
I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two

Confession: I don’t mind my songs having a bit of dirty talk, I don’t even mind them having a lot of dirty talk. Some women enjoy it, and that’s ok. Its always important to consider context, however. For instance, in the Ludacris song “What’s Your Fantasy”, it talks about many similar themes. Why do I like that song? Because the whole song is about communication, asking the woman what she likes, and then presenting a whole range of options, from role playing to relaxation, to rough to smooth, and it has a woman on the track specifically mentioning what she wants to do. Communication between two consenting parties is GREAT and very appropriate. This song has no indication that the woman wants to be talked to/about like she’s a piece of meat.

Swag on, even when you dress casual
I mean it’s almost unbearable

Here is a good example of a guy being honest for once. It doesn’t matter what you wear. Even when you dress casual “Its almost unbearable”, with it being his sexual desire for her. Please lets stop asking girls when they are raped, harassed or assaulted “What were you wearing?” or talking about dressing modestly like it can keep away creepers.

Nothing like your last guy, he too square for you
He don’t smack that ass and pull your hair like that

Your choice of a man last time was wrong. End of story.

Not many women can refuse this pimpin’
I’m a nice guy, but don’t be confused, you getting it

And BINGO! Anybody else out there with their rape culture buzzword cards, I just got a straight line across the middle with the phrase “Nice guy” and a triple letter score with the implication that “nice guys” still don’t take no for an answer and are out for one thing (ok, so I haven’t played bingo for a while :P)

[Bridge: Robin Thicke]
Shake the vibe, get down, get up
Do it like it hurt, like it hurt
What you don’t like work?

So this is pretty straightforward, and translates to nothing more than “Shake what you got”. The phrasing however of the last sentence resonates with me and reminds me of the comments women get while being harassed on the street. “Oh, you don’t like me?” or in the case of my neighborhood. “You don’t wanna talk to a black man?” or “What’s your problem? You don’t like attention?” Or what was it Robin said “’Hey, where you going, girl? Come over here!’” because that doesn’t feel threatening in any way…

[Pre-chorus: Robin Thicke]
Baby can you breathe? I got this from Jamaica
It always works for me Dakota to Decatur, uh huh
No more pretending
Hey, hey, hey
Cause now you winning
Hey, hey, hey
Here’s our beginning

Beginning of the relationship, starts with impaired reasoning from drugs. Just interesting to note.

[Chorus: Robin Thicke]
I always wanted a 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 don’t understand how he can say he “hates the blurred lines” in the same song as saying “I always wanted a good girl”, but I concede that this was probably just a thoughtless reworking of the line and after all, the song was written and recorded in a day.

Here is the link to the quotes from the article by Robin Thicke.


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