James Griffin

James Griffin writes The Final Word column in canvas magazine

James Griffin: Reading between the lines

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Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus performing 'Blurred Lines' at the MTV Video Music Awards. Photo / AP
Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus performing 'Blurred Lines' at the MTV Video Music Awards. Photo / AP

For me the ear-worm of the last wee while, that song that gets in my head and won't leave easily, has been Blurred Lines, by a bloke by the name of Robin Thicke (featuring Pharrell Williams and someone called T.I). It's been a bit controversial this song, mainly because of its NSFW (which is internet-speak for "watch me now, you know you want to") video, featuring near-nude models being, well, models in a music video.

There has also been a fair bit of discussion about the lyrical content of the song, and whether it is the very embodiment of all that is misogynistic and wrong with pop music these days. So let us then take a peek at a sampling of these words that has got so many feathers ruffled.

Everybody get up

Pharrell invites us to dance in what is, effectively, a powhiri, welcoming us to the song.

Cheers, Pharrell, but I'm good sitting down.

If you can't hear what I'm trying to say/If you can't read from the same page

Robin kicks things off in earnest by doing some helium singing and already I'm confused. If a singer sings a song and no one can hear what he says, does the song exist? Already I suspect that, indeed, I am not on the same page as Robin.

Okay now he was close, tried to domesticate you

Now things are starting to get a little edgy. That word "domesticate", what message is that sending? Is he trying to say that the woman to whom he is singing this song is some kind of animal?

But you're an animal, baby, it's in your nature

Oh, right, he is. But clearly some line is being drawn here between domestic animals that are somehow bad and animal animals you call "baby" that are good and that Robin clearly understands well enough to determine what their nature is. Possibly some kind of Orwellian Animal Farm "four legs good, two legs bad" subtext going on here, except replacing the number of legs with degrees of hotness?

You're far from plastic

Hang on, when did plastic come into it? Are these plastic animals we're talking about, like I used to play with when I was a kid? And what, actually, is "far from plastic", Robin? Wood? Chocolate? It could be argued that everything in the world that is not plastic is also far from plastic.

I hate these blurred lines

Me too, Robin, because I like a bit of clarity in my life. Unfortunately, mate, your song, as catchy as it is, isn't exactly clear on what the hell it is about, with all the animal imagery and the plastic - though I suspect, reading between the lines, it might be all about sex.
Just going out on a limb here.

What do we need steam for?

That's a very interesting question, Robin, especially in the context of a pop song. Steam is actually very useful in many ways, now that you mention it. Geothermal power, for example, utilises steam to generate electricity. Not a lot of pop songs are written about geothermal power, so I suspect it has something to do with how the hotness of the "baby" in your song is like introducing super-heated water on to the dancefloor where everybody has got up.

You the hottest b**ch in this place

Aha, I was right! But did you have to use the B-word, Robin? Especially when you're trying to say something nice? I know, as a weedy white boy, you look at Kanye and Jay-Z dropping the N-word all over the place and you think "man, I wish I could say shit like that in my songs" but really this is where all the trouble starts. "Woman" or even "lady" or, at a pinch, "girl" because it scans better, would have been much more acceptable. The B-word is not a compliment, Robin, and it never will be.

Just let me liberate you/You don't need no papers

You see, Robin, if you hadn't just thrown in the B-word because you think it makes you sound all gangsta, this could be an uplifting part of the song, in which you free your "baby" from something - not entirely clear what, but presumably passports or something along those lines are required.

I know you want it

And here it is, the bit that confirms the song is actually all about sex. But really, Robin? Does this line actually work for you? Okay, maybe if you're a good-looking guy with a hit single who also happens to be the son of the dude who played the dad in Growing Pains it does, but it doesn't bear much resemblance to real life for the rest of us, does it?

Hey hey hey

I couldn't agree more, Robin.

- NZ Herald

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