The first single from Robin Thicke's sixth studio album features guest appearances from hip-hop recording artists T.I. and Pharrell Williams. When Thicke went into the studio with Pharrell in the summer of 2012, he just wanted to create a track that embodied the fun vibe of his favorite song of all-time, Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up." Within an hour, the duo had come up with this song. "In the studio, Pharrell and I started jamming," Thicke recalled to Radio.com. "One of the first things Pharrell did was go, 'Hey, hey, hey!' and then we started having such a great time. We were dancing around the studio like old men. We were doing our old men barbecue dances." The song was released on March 26, 2013.
The song's music video was directed by Diane Martel, and features Thicke, Williams and T.I., joining a handful of nude models. The singer said in an interview with The Associated Press that he had received the support of his wife, actress Paula Patton, to shoot with undressed glamorous girls. However the clip was too hot for YouTube and was banned from the website. A second version was also filmed, which can still be found on YouTube, where the models appear clothed.
Martel enlisted an all-female crew to shoot with her, to guarantee that the models were comfortable with the nude version. The director told MTV News, "It was really annoying to have to do two videos in one day. The plastic clothes were so uncomfortable and the girls had to keep putting them off and on and it was exhausting. This was the pain for all of us."
A basic pop song structure is verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus (A/B/A/B/C/B). This song takes a different path, going verse/chorus/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/verse/chorus (A/B/A/B/A/B/C/A/B) over its 4:23 running length. That's four verses and four repetitions of the chorus - good luck getting that out of your head. The only way to pull off this structure is to employ multiple voices, which is where the guest singers come in handy.
As is often case once the unrated video version was banned, the ensuing publicity helped the single go viral. "We just had a great feeling about the song," Thicke told Carson Daly on his May 15, 2013 KAMP-FM radio show. "I made it last summer. I mean, I had it for about eight or nine months, you know, and Jimmy Iovine liked it, but nobody was really jumping all around the place for it.
"And then we shot video. Jimmy Iovine called me seven seconds into the video... and he said, 'This is a smash! This video is amazing!'"
"We had always planned on making an unrated, we like to call it, [version]. Not X, it's just unrated! So what we would do is shoot a segment with the girls dressed and then they would take their clothes off [and] we'd shoot the same shot."
The song was the first UK chart-topper for Robin Thicke. His previous showing had been the #11 placing of "Lost Without U" in 2007.
The song also marked the second UK #1 to feature Pharrell Williams in three weeks, following his appearance on Daft Punk's "Get Lucky."
Robin Thicke explained the song's meaning to The Daily Star: "It is mostly throwaway fun, but naturally Pharrell and I - being in love with our wives, having kids and loving our mothers - we have a lot of respect for women," he said. "So the way we were seeing it is, 'I know man tries to domesticate you but you're an animal, you are just like any man."
"It is also about the blurred line between a good girl and bad girl, people who want to get naughty," he added.
Robin's mom, Gloria Loring, reached #2 on the Hot 100 with Carl Anderson in 1986 with "Friends and Lovers." When this song climbed 11-6 on the chart, they became the first ever mother-and-son to have both tallied top 10 singles as solo artists or duos.
An argument could be made for Shirley Jones, who recorded three Top 10s under the name of "The Partridge Family Starring Shirley Jones and David Cassidy" in 1970-71 and her son, Shaun Cassidy, who also notched three Top 10s in 1977-78, but we're counting The Partridge Family as a group. (In case you're wondering, David Cassidy is her stepson).
Thicke's sound has often been compared to that of Justin Timberlake's, and he told the New York radio station Hot 97 the success of the Suit and Tie singer's The 20/20 Experience helped pave the way for this song to become a hit. "He actually helped me a lot because his sound went more R&B and soulful and that's what I've been doing my whole career, so it really opened up a door," said Thicke. "Him and I grew up with the same influences - Michael Jackson, Prince, Marvin Gaye," he added. "We were both white kids who grew up in the hip-hop generation, so I think it's natural we're going to have some similarities."
The song's ascent to peak position in America was helped by its use in a commercial for the Beats Pill speaker line.
The three semi-dressed or topless women in the video (depending on what version you're watching) are the models Elle Evansm, Emily Ratajkowski and Jessi M'Bengue.
Thicke described the song to GQ magazine as "two old men on a porch hollering at girls like, 'Hey, where you going, girl? Come over here!'" He added; "That's why, in the video, we're doing all these old men dances."
Thicke told GQ magazine how T.I. ended up on the track: "Well, at first it was me and Pharrell," he said. "Then I thought, who else is a grown Southern gentleman with a family? T.I. Even though he's a hardcore rapper, he's a real Southern gentleman. He says 'Sir' and 'Ma'am,' he stays cool, and he's really beloved. Pharrell's the same way. It was just three really nice guys having a good time together."
Robin Thicke admitted to SiriusXM's The Howard Stern Show that his sexual escapades with Paula Patton, inspired the song. "'Blurred Lines is very much about my wife," he said, "It's about how she's a good girl, but she wants to be a bad girl. My wife is Mrs. Good Girl, but gradually over our marriage, I've turned her into a bad girl."
"I mean naughty, sexually, yeah," he added. "I won't get into too many details out of respect to her but she likes it all. We've done just about everything."
Patton filed for divorce the following year.
Thicke addressed the debate over the song's lyrics during an interview with Today's Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie. "When we made the song, we had nothing but the most respect for women and - my wife, I've been with the same woman since I was a teenager," the singer said.
"So for us," he continued, "we were just trying to make a funny song and sometimes the lyrics get misconstrued when you're just trying to put people on the dance floor and have a good time, but we had no idea it would stir this much controversy. We only had the best intentions."
Thicke went on to claim that the debate over the song is a positive thing as it stirs conversation. "It's supposed to make us talk about what's important and what the relationship between men and women is," he said, "but if you listen to the lyrics it says 'That man is not your maker' - it's actually a feminist movement within itself."
Thicke and The Roots performed the song on the August 1, 2013 episode of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, using children's musical instruments with Black Thought filling in for T.I.'s verse. That's Questlove with the wooden clacker, whilst Thicke played spoons and Fallon the wood block and Casio keyboard. The G-rated version was completely void of topless models and featured multiple cleaned-up lyric changes to make it kiddy-friendly. Go back to school with the video.
The song didn't originally click with Thicke's record label when the singer previewed it in the summer of 2012. "I went into the record label," he recalled to The Associated Press, "and I played it for the heads of the label, head of pop radio ... and everybody just went, 'Nice. Nice.' Got no response; was kind of surprised by that."
The label didn't even pay for the video. The cognac brand Rémy Martin, for whom Thicke is a spokesperson for the liquor brand with his wife, actress Paula Patton, splashed out instead. He said: "And as soon as the record company saw the video, they said, 'This is a smash.'"
The track broke the record for the all-time highest number of radio impressions during a single week in the US, with 219.8 million impressions in the first week of August 2013, surpassing the 8-year-old record of 212.2 million set by Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together."
The song was only the second ever to simultaneously top the three Billboard charts that encompass Top 40 radio: Pop Songs, Rhythmic and Adult Pop Songs. The previous one to do so was Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca," in the week of June 26, 1999.
The song may have a similar sound and style to Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" and Funkadelic's "Sexy Ways," but is it enough to warrant copyright infringement? Thicke, Pharrell, and T.I. certainly don't think so, and when Gaye's family and Bridgeport Music (which owns the right to Funkadelic's tunes) threatened legal action against the trio, they sought to pre-empt the suit by filing one of their own against the potential claimants.
Gaye's family filed a countersuit claiming that "Blurred Lines" contained "blatant copying of a constellation of distinctive and significant compositional elements of Marvin Gaye's classic #1 song." They demanded damages for the alleged infringement and the publisher's alleged misconduct.
On March 10, 2015, a jury sided with Gaye's family, awarding $7.3 million in damages to Marvin's children Frankie, Nona and Marvin Gaye III. (Nona had a modest impact as a singer in the '90s. She charted at #86 US with "I'm Overjoyed" in 1992, and appeared on a duet with Prince called "Love Sign" in 1994.)
That sum was later reduced to $5.3m.
Thicke told Billboard magazine the title "Blurred Lines," refers to "the good-girl/bad-girl thing and what's appropriate, and that's what the video was about - what's right and what's wrong and what's inappropriate and appropriate. I'm semi-existential and realistic."
Pharrell spoke with the Associated Press about the resemblance between this song and Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up." According to Pharrell, the two tracks are "completely different." "Anybody that plays music and reads music, just simply go to the piano and play the two," he said. "One's minor and one's major. And not even in the same key."
The song spent 16 weeks at #1 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. It was the most since the 1940s when Joe Liggins' "The Honeydripper" and Louis Jordan's "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" both spent 18 weeks on top of the tally. (The listing was known as 'Race Records' back in those days).
This was 2013's top-selling single in both the US and UK. The song sold 6.5 million copies in America; Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop" was the year's second-biggest, with 6.15 million. The tune sold 1.47 million copies in the UK, edging out Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" with 1.3 million. Pharrell Williams had the distinction of singing on both tracks.
"Weird Al" Yankovic turned this song into the grammar lesson "Word Crimes" on his 2014 album, Mandatory Fun.
Robin Thicke confessed under oath that he blurred the lines of the writing credits for this song during the legal battle over its origin with the children of the late Marvin Gaye. He told the Gayes' lawyer, "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... I was present. Obviously, I sang it. I had to be there."
But when he was asked if he was around when the rhythm track was being created, he added, "To be honest... I was high on Vicodin and alcohol when I showed up at the studio. So my recollection is when we made the song, I thought I wanted... I wanted to be more involved than I actually was by the time, nine months later, it became a huge hit and I wanted credit."
"I started kind of convincing myself that I was a little more part of it than I was... but the reality is that Pharrell had the beat and he wrote almost every single part of the song... (I was) lucky enough to be in the room."
Thicke performed part of this song with the band Chicago at the Grammy Awards in 2014. Chicago's debut album entered the Grammy Hall of Fame that year.
This song was used in a 2015 episode of the TV series Black-ish in a scene were the lead character is listing things black people don't like talking about. On the list: how they love Robin Thicke. We then see three black characters enjoying this song until a white co-worker comes in and they quickly turn it off.