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Pharrell's Interview Demonstrates the Shift from Toxic Masculinity to Consciousness


Pharrell has a legendary status in the music industry. As a producer who has worked with artists like Jay-Z, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé, Lil Uzi Vert and SZA, he is widely respected and is easily recognizable with his signature four-count intros and blonde hair. However, throughout Pharrell's wide experience in the industry he has made mistakes. He acknowledges his faults in a GQ interview about the Robin Thicke and T.I. assisted song "Blurred Lines".

In the era of  "Me Too" and changing views around masculinity, Pharrell demonstrates in his reflection of that past that similarly to his music, he is constantly evolving. 


Photo by Dan Garcia

"Blurred Lines" dominated the summer of 2013. Peaking at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 12 weeks and spending a total of 48 on the chart, it was a dominant hit. But behind the jazzy beats and catchy lyrics is problematic messaging that led to the song being dubbed "the most controversial song of the decade." With lyrics such as "just let me liberate you, you don't need no papers" and "I hate these blurred lines, I know you want it,'' the song was subject to extreme scrutiny. Some called it "rapey" and sexist, because of the lyrics that seemed to promote sexual assault and ignorance towards consent. The song, nonetheless, achieved major success.

Pharrell recognizes this six years later, as he candidly talked about in GQ. He saw this successful hit as the catalyst that changed his mentality.

"I didn't get it at first," he explained. "There are women who really like the song and connect to the energy that just gets you up. And I know you want it—women sing those kinds of lyrics all the time. So it's like, What's rapey about that?

But Pharrell had a shift in his view, and instead of looking at the impact of the song on himself, he thought about the women who were the subject of the hit. "And then I realized that there are men who use that same language when taking advantage of a woman, and it doesn't matter that that's not my behavior...It just matters how it affects women. And I was like, Got it." He continued, "I get it. Cool. 

"My mind opened up to what was actually being said in the song and how it could make someone feel. Even though it wasn't the majority, it didn't matter. I cared what they were feeling too. I realized that we live in a chauvinist culture in our country. Hadn't realized that. Didn't realize that some of my songs catered to that."

Pharrell's rejection of one of his biggest hits demonstrates the change that is happening in pop culture, especially as toxic masculinity is actively being dismantled. While donning dresses and wearing makeup, Pharrell shows that it is okay to own up to your mistakes, no matter how successful you are. It is okay to acknowledge that your position as a man has impacts on women, in conversation and in song. Pharrell's growth, as shown by his interview, plays a role in the advancement taking place in Hollywood. 

Simply put, it is never too late to apologize. 

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