Well, I guess we have to give the guy credit for his honesty. Even if it does come a little late. And under oath.
“Blurred Lines,” the breakout summer hit of 2013 by R&B singer Robin Thicke and producer Pharrell, has been nothing if not controversial—and the controversy only continues. First, there was the nudie video that got banned from YouTube, but still accomplished its purpose of generating interest. Then, there were the lyrics themselves, which were cited as misogynistic and degrading to women, prompting numerous colleges and universities to ban the song. Then, the Miley Cyrus/Robin Thicke “twerk” event on the MTV VMA Awards. Then, lawsuits involving the family of Marvin Gaye who claim “Blurred Lines” rips off one of Gaye’s songs, “Got To Give It Up” from 1977. (And by the way, Thicke actually sued first, proactively, in anticipation of a problem from the Gaye family. Go figure that.)
Now, Thicke is basically claiming he didn’t really write the song at all.
In a court deposition recently made public by The Hollywood Reporter, the singer admits that he was just “lucky enough to be in the room” when “Blurred Lines” was written—that he was actually “high on Vicodin and alcohol when I showed up at the studio” and that producer Pharrell wrote almost the entire thing. He goes on to admit that he began taking more and more credit for the song in front of the media because he was “envious.”
In the aftermath of the predictable media firestorm that followed this revelation, Thicke’s attorney Howard King released a statement about his client: “Robin’s moment of personal vulnerability is being exploited in the hope of diverting attention from the obvious weakness of their legal claim.”
Without diving into the legalities and minutiae of the case itself (since that’s obviously someone else’s job), let’s look for a moment at the direction this is actually pointing. Robin Thicke’s claim all along with this song is that he was inspired by Marvin Gaye and was trying to pay homage, but was in no way trying to rip him off. Yet, Thicke becomes part of a proactive lawsuit seeking protection against what he believes will be an impending complaint by the family of Marvin Gaye—and when it comes down to brass tacks, the basis of his claim of innocence now appears to be that he was too drunk and high to write the song, that someone else did it!
Is the attorney right? Does this revelation divert attention from the case? Damn straight it does—as well it should. The courts will move forward doing their job of figuring out who owns what and who ripped off whom, but to the public, the issue of whether “Blurred Lines” is a rip-off has suddenly become secondary. That said, the attorney is wrong about the information being exploited just because the public and the media aren’t letting this “moment of personal vulnerability” fly under the radar. It is more than simply an admission under oath—it’s a very revealing statement of character.
What do I mean by this? I find it uncanny that in all this upheaval over Thick’s substance abuse, few if any people are pointing out that Robin Thicke just threw his “writing partner” under the bus.
What about Pharrell? Let’s look at what’s happening here: With Pharrell’s apparent consent (as shown in his own deposition), Robin Thicke took undue credit for a song he had very little do to with writing—but when it becomes an issue of legal liability, THAT’S when he gets “honest” and effectively denies culpability, treating the song like a hot potato and throwing it to Pharrell. It almost plays like a couple of six-year-olds being confronted for wrongdoing, where one points to the other and says, “HE DID IT!”
Nothing is currently being said about where this actually leaves Pharrell. Probably no worse off than he was before. On paper, Thicke was given partial credit for the song and receives 18-22 percent of the publishing, even though he probably didn’t even come close to that percentage of the song’s actual creation. That’s likely what the courts will look at when deciding whether this song is infringing on someone else’s copyright, and who is legally liable. What music fans need to look at is what this says about Thicke’s behavior and character—not simply the substance abuse (which can certainly be dealt with mercifully) but the apparent underhandedness and lack of scruples motivating this whole deal. It gives a whole new sense of meaning to the term “Blurred Lines.” Just saying.