Robin Thicke performs at the MTV/Lifebeat concert Friday night at Terminal 5 in Manhattan. Credit: Provided
Robin Thicke has a certified dud on his hands with "Paula," the follow-up album to his multiplatinum "Blurred Lines" and its eponymous title track that became Billboard's 2013 song of the summer.
But Thicke's lusty dance floor number was almost as controversial as it was popular, with many feminist blogs taking the singer and his collaborators T.I. and Pharrell to task over lyrics they saw as misogynist and encouraging rape.
The backlash got so intense that if there was any debate about these critics' interpretation, it got lost in the noise. Now that Thicke's record sales have made him a punchline, even as he tries with escalating desperation to win back his high school sweetheart ex-wife Paula Patton, Rebecca Vipond Brink at The Frisky saw an opportunity to take another look at the song she loved last summer.
Brink took issue with which lines, exactly, are blurred in the song. She says critics missed a crucial step in jumping to consent issues.
The “blurred line” he’s referring to is the line of knowing or not knowing if the person you’re flirting with is into you. Like, “I’m pretty sure I know you want it, but you haven’t expressly said so, so we’re still in this hazy flirting territory.” He doesn’t say — at all, ever — “I know you want it, and whether or not that’s actually true, I’m going to take it.”
To say the song encourages rape is to marginalize submissive women and healthy sexual relationships in general, she wrote.
This is why context matters. Because sometimes “It’ll be fine” is a way of reassuring someone, and sometimes it’s a way of telling a scared 16-year-old to shut up and take it. Sometimes things like “you’re a good girl” or “I know you want it” are coercive, and sometimes they’re part of very arousing sexual play.
Whatever the "Blurred Lines" were, given Thicke's sad story, let's all acknowledge that "you the hottest b— in this place" is possibly not the smoothest pick-up line.
While you come up with another one for your next night out, check out this season's less controversial but no less dance-worthy songs of summer?