Article by Monica Couvillion | esPResso Staff Writer
The popular hit Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams was released on March 26, 2013. Between a public outcry over controversial lyrics, a scandalous music video that was removed from YouTube for a short period of time and the widely-publicized 2013 MTV VMA performance of the song featuring Miley Cyrus, it seems as though Blurred Lines has been in the news ever since its release. Most recently, deposition videos of the song’s producer Pharrell Williams and the track’s vocalist Robin Thicke regarding their copyright infringement lawsuit in August 2013 have been unsealed and leaked to the media. See Williams’ responses and Thicke’s for more information.
In March 2015, Thicke and Williams were found guilty of copyright infringement and ordered to pay an estimated $7.3 million to the Marvin Gaye estate following a case that was brought to court by Gaye’s family. The case called similarities between Blurred Lines and Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song Got To Give It Up into question for copyright infringement on the original song. With the court ruling taking place last spring, the story continues now as the deposition videos of Thicke and Williams have surfaced. In the tapes, singer Thicke admits to being high on alcohol or drugs throughout all of his media appearances in regards to Blurred Lines while producer Williams appears bored and offended, making comments regarding knowledge of music and music production to the interviewer.
While much of the information in the tapes has already been uncovered in the press, including Thicke’s confession about drug use during his interviews, the resurfacing of the material has reignited public interest in the case. Since Blurred Lines and the subsequent August 2013 lawsuit, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams have seen very different public responses. Specifically, Thicke has seen a severe decline in his public image while Williams has not.
Originally, Thicke was listed as the primary vocalist and author of Blurred Lines and was quoted in GQ explaining how he and Williams worked together to create the sound and vibe of the song. However, following the investigation into the potential of copyright infringement, Thicke spoke about his substance abuse issues and was quoted in the deposition files originally released by the Hollywood Reporter that he was under the influence during the recording of the track and that Williams “had the beat and he wrote almost every single part of the song.”
Additionally, Thicke’s well-publicized divorce followed Blurred Lines’ release and was the subject of severe scrutiny by the media and fans alike. His 2014 album, Paula, was an attempt to win back his estranged wife but only sold 24,000 copies. In this same month, Thicke personally asked followers to submit questions by using the hashtag #AskThicke on Twitter, but the hashtag was quickly used by people protesting against his lyrics, his lifestyle choices and making crude comments. The #AskThicke campaign was called “an epic PR fail” by The Guardian. Thicke’s inconsistencies in both his professional and public persona have seemingly cost him his career.
Producer Pharrell Williams has seen a very different response to the scandal. Following Blurred Lines, he has gone on to release a new album titled Girl, which sold over 591,000 copies in the U.S. alone, join the judging panel of The Voice, perform at the 2015 Grammy Awards. Most recently, he was named the artist-in-residence at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.
Why is it that singer Robin Thicke has seen such a decline in his public approval, while Williams seems to still be well-regarded in the music industry? Although Williams is listed as the producer of Blurred Lines and referenced as the driving force behind the song, it is the singer who has seen the most backlash from Blurred Lines’ controversies and legal woes. Perhaps this can be attributed to his inconsistent self-representation in the media following these scandals.
His attempts to clean up his act by using his marital troubles as a catalyst did not find favor with the public, while Williams has continuously referenced his experience and skill in the music industry as a whole and seen better results. The leaking of the deposition tapes only strengthens this. However, it will be interesting to note how Williams fares now that his contentious attitude is public information. Overall, the Blurred Lines lawsuit and controversy has become a great example of how sacred an entertainer’s public image is to his or her brand, and that sometimes saying less is more. Thicke and Williams have both expressed their intent to appeal the ruling that they are guilty of infringing upon Gaye’s Got To Give It Up, so it seems as though Blurred Lines is not fading into obscurity anytime soon.