blurred lines

Fine! I’m throwing my hands up in frustration, because I admit it. “Blurred Lines” is catchy.  Apparently my taste in music is not good enough to find the song’s beats to be boring or annoying or whatever disinterested music snobs are saying about the song. I like to dance. “Blurred Lines” is a great dance song. Of course, there is that classic hang-up: misogyny. Here comes sexism rearing its ugly head, and it’s not quite as catchy as the beats in “Blurred Lines.”

Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is what we might call 2013’s summer hit, played on every radio station multiple times within a few hours. But if you actually pay attention to the words, well… Some of the most alarming lyrics are rapped in T.I.’s verse: “So hit me up when you passing through/ I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two.”

What’s disappointing is that the violent sexual imagery is nothing new and, indeed, very common in popular music (this goes for everything from pop to hip hop to rock, by the way). But what is new about “Blurred Lines” is the interesting, productive discussion about sex and the objectification of women in the media, both traditional and online. I’m not here to rehash what other critics have said, because the misogyny is pretty obvious. I want to problematize the criticism  by asking the question, is it okay to listen to sexist songs if you drown out the lyrics and simply dance along instead? In other words, is it possible to compartmentalize the violent, objectifying words apart from the music?

For instance, what if I changed the lyrics as I sang along? Am I still complicit in spreading this damaging message if I’m alone in my car and fully aware that I don’t agree with them?

Here’s another question: Can we tell women what they can and cannot enjoy? If a woman receives pleasure from listening to “Blurred Lines,” do I have the authority to deny her that pleasure by changing the song?

Loads of questions, so little time, and not many answers, and I haven’t even touched on the music video where supermodels awkwardly strut and dance around the fully clothed Thicke, T.I., and Pharrell, who is also featured. For now, here’s a genderswapped parody (maybe the answer to my previous question about changing lyrics is simply to listen to this version instead):

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