The amount of ink that continues to be spilt over Robin Thicke’s R&B smash ‘Blurred Lines’ is frankly astounding. Released in March, and having gone to number one in 40 countries, this slightly lewd come-hither anthem has been railed against time and again by enraged cultural commentators. It’s been deemed ‘rapey’, ‘creepy’, and accused of carrying a ‘hefty undertow of sexual violence’. Its rampant success even led one particularly irate Vice writer to call into question the ‘future wellbeing of half of the global population’.
There has been a shrill outpouring of shock and horror from reactionary lefties, feminists and rape-culture theorists. They’re especially mad at the video for ‘Blurred Lines’, or, more accurately, videos, which show a dapper Thicke, producer Pharrell Williams and rapper TI cavorting with three nubile models. In the unrated version, said honeys appear wearing nothing but flesh-coloured thongs and vacant, supposedly permissive expressions in response to Thicke’s less than gentlemanly chat-up line, ‘You know you want it’.
The outcry has gone on and on; hardly a month passes without professional offence-seekers creating another faux-controversy over ‘Blurred Lines’. The song’s ongoing chart domination has caused some observers to turn on consumers, too, accusing them of sacrificing the gains of gender equality at the altar of an ‘insidiously catchy tune’.
Then, of course, there was Thicke’s performance with Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards a few weeks ago. The former Disney princess donned a ‘nude’ bikini and twerked on Thicke’s crotch, leading journos to let out a collective ‘I told you so’ as Thicke’s malevolent influence on young females was apparently being played out before our eyes. Six months since ‘Blurred Lines’ was released, the hysteria shows no sign of letting up, with news breaking yesterday that the University of Edinburgh students’ union has banned the song from being played in any of its buildings.
What is this fury about ‘Blurred Lines’ really all about? It can’t simply be that the song is, allegedly, misogynistic. Because actually it is incredibly tame by modern pop and R&B standards. Thicke’s attempt to ‘liberate’ a ‘good girl’ with the powers of his penis smacks of little more than macho hubris, not a nonchalance towards female consent. Over the past few years, alternative R&B singer The Weeknd (aka Abel Tesfaye), has shot to the top of critics’ choice lists with a string of releases far raunchier than ‘Blurred Lines’, all documenting his depraved, strung-out antics - plying groupies with drugs and bedding them as a means of keeping his spirits up during a nasty comedown.