Even fair weather fans of Robin Thicke have long known that Alan Thicke’s boy had a huge crush on Marvin Gaye’s music. Before “Blurred Lines” took over radio and various cookouts across the country last year, he was releasing albums like 2008’s Something Else, which could’ve also been titled Vanilla Latte Marvin Gaye. Thicke has been doing this, only never to the success he secured with his now lawsuit-spawning massive hit.
However, thanks to the newly exposed depositions as part of the lawsuit filed by Gaye’s children against the “Blurred Lines” architects – Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and T.I. – we now know that Thicke lied about the songs conception. Claiming the stories he told the press last year were sponsored by Vicodin and alcohol, Thicke clarified by explaining,
I was jealous and I wanted some of the credit … I tried to take credit for it later because [Williams] wrote the whole thing pretty much by himself and I was envious of that.
Robin did what many contemporary singers do these days: add their name to the songwriting credits for the sake of appearances and publishing checks. When asked about this, Pharrell noted,
This is what happens every day in our industry. You know, people are made to look like they have much more authorship in the situation than they actually do. So that’s where the embellishment comes in.
And if Pharrell is comfortable with that and allowing Thicke to collect 18 to 22 percent of publishing royalties, so be it. As for as the Gaye family’s lawsuit, that is for the courts and possibly Gaye’s ghost to decide. What frustrates me most about this new twist to the story though, is that Pharrell once again spewed that post-racial, Yoda-like nonsense about race – only now under oath.
When trying to break down what exactly makes Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” different from “Blurred Lines,” Pharrell said:
Because it’s the white man singing soulfully and we, unfortunately, in this country don’t get enough — we don’t get to hear that as often, so we get excited by it when the mainstream gives that a shot. But there’s a lot of incredibly talented white folk with really soulful vocals, so when we’re able to give them a shot — and when I say ‘we,’ I mean like as in the public gives them a shot to be heard, then you hear the Justin Timberlakes and you hear the Christina Aguileras and you hear, you know, all of these masterful voices that have just been given, you know, an opportunity to be heard because they’re doing something different.
So, Robin Thicke used his clout as an artist to collect 18 to 22 percent of royalties for a song he played no role in actually creating, but when met with a legal challenge, now suddenly wants to deflect and be honest in the name of self-interest. And even when met with a backhand shot of disloyalty, Pharrell acts as if Robin Thicke is a victim because he’s just a white man in America trying to ride the wave of Black creativity to net wealth.
This is like Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake redux, but at least Damita Jo knew what the damn deal was.
I don’t know what planet Pharrell Williams lives on, but I wish he would jump on his big ass hat and ride himself back there and spare us all from another densely worded statement about race. Just as he did in a GQ interview published earlier this year, Pharrell has proven how detached he is from reality.
White people performing Black music is not new. White people profiting off of Black art forms – often at greater margins than Black acts themselves – isn’t either. If anything, it’s noticeably harder for a Black artist than it’s been in white sometime. Robin Thicke can be Marvin Gaye while Usher is now segregated to “urban adult contemporary stations” for similar material. Iggy Azalea can get away with rhyming like Diamond from Crime Mob or Charli Baltimore on any given day. Where Miley Cyrus gets credited for the explosion of twerking. A time in which those “soulful Brits” like Adele and Sam Smith can reach all this acclaim for material that if performed by Jazmine Sullivan and Luke James, would not be played on pop radio.
Pharrell knows this as he rode that wave last year with Robin Thicke and Daft Punk.
There are many things to complain about in contemporary music, but the plight of the white soul singer due to “reverse racism” is not one of them. If Pharrell is fine with being played, let him be played. When it comes to cries about the poor hopeless white soul singer, however, put your cape down, Pharrell. They’re doing just fine.
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