Categorized | Home, Music

Blurred Social Lines, or, The Day We Deserved Royalties

With the decision to slather hashtags over an otherwise serviceable if purposely derivative music video, Robin Thicke has invited me to join the conversation about Blurred Lines taking place in the realm of buzziness. The invitation comes flashing, repeated, and boldly so.

The only hitch in this, well, I don’t have anything to say about this music video. Actually, I have plenty to say about the music video, but almost none of it is what Robin intended. I’m sure he wants the new ceiling for grotesque meta to hold his name for decades; I’m not so sure he gets how the would-be performance art comes across.

At face value, Blurred Lines, the song, is something like a palimpsest of the Wedding Dance Floor Canon, the Timberlake Suave Factor, The Michael Jackson Shriek, Stock Falsetto, and Our Implaceable Desire for New. It’s not terrible, thanks in large part to the bland mathematical safeguards. (Inoffensive melody+ a modicum of charm+ one scandalous feature= the 21st century whole.)

The video, however, can only be described as an empty and laughably fucking desperate Target commercial. Visually the hashtags strike me as less of an invitation to a conversation and more of a bouncer for the fun party Pharell and Co. are having.  Not to get too obtuse, but the blurred lines seem more like a parallax – a perception that changes depending on where you’re standing. When I am drawn into the Remy, the nudity, and the blood red lipstick, a helpful reminder appears on screen: #THICKE. #BLURREDLINES. This is where that misunderstood self-portrayal comes into play. While the social media godsend idea seems ‘relatable’ to the established offspring of nepotism, it is only so because that’s what conversation in the digital age has become. A star manufactures something, a general mass responds to it whether they want to or not. For those who have nothing to say about whatever jumbled pandering nonsense is happening on-screen, the blurred lines are really quite clear: we’re over here having an actual party; you can have this song to suffocate your real life with the mere vestige of creativity. This intrusion would be so fucking egregious if it didn’t work.

When I watched the video a second, a third, and a fourth time for research and self-loathing purposes, I could not shake the mental image of Family Guy’s ‘SMOKE’ propaganda. But what is the pre-war charlatan selling, exactly? Fitting to the insertion of billboard-sized social media, he is selling a distraction from being useless. Take a look at this quote from his wiki: “I wanted to be like Marvin Gaye, and John Lennon and Bob Marley and these great artists and songwriters that sang about love and sang about relationships…we wanted to be young again and we wanted to dance again and go out with our friends, so I wanted to make music that reflected that culture also.” Blurred Lines is apparently code for ‘I’m completely dissatisfied with growing old, so I’d like to take a revisionist stab at creating an artificial feeling through directionless music.’

And so we arrive at the real purpose of those hashtags that just dare you to hate them. The conversation e-vite is not a cheap ploy, it’s a cry for help. Here are women and bottles and suits and famous faces and the all-inclusive mambo samples. We threw them all in a room. What in the earthly fuck do we do with them? What do they mean? In this video, I see the nervous breakdown of pop culture masquerading as fun. The hashtags are not so much inserted as they are breaking through like warning lights. The all-white look is not meant to evoke 1960s London; it’s a fucking sanatorium. Doctors and nurses to the staging area, please. Tell us what the faux-hedonism means or the video dies. (OK, 1960s London wasn’t too far off, either.)

If this video is a harbinger of a new pop era, we should be paid some royalties. The song was made a hit upon the platform of #blurredlines, and so perhaps the all-white look is also significant because we have to fill in the rest. Instead of being about anything, Robin Thicke and Pharell are playing Mad Libs to a beat; and the funny thing about that is, by the time the video becomes the viral darling it was packaged to be, artistic intent doesn’t matter in the slightest. As the hook sings ‘I know you want it/You’re far from plastic/Talking about getting blasted’, we have no choice but to make the song a hit. We have to believe that pop music is still something geniunely fun to play at parties and not completely devoid of originality — especially since the only other dialogue would seem to be the nostalgia for a time even before our birth a la YouTube comments. Pushing this song into the sphere of conversation, like it asked us to do, is to buy the very distraction that Thicke sells. But if I’m now essential to the misogynist distraction — which, okay, fine — cut me a check.

I guess what I’m saying is there’s a difference between “What does this mean to you?” and “This video is objectively worthless without you to pretend it matters”. Those are the blurred lines, but in this case, yeah, make it out to cash.

Be Sociable, Share!
0 comments

About the Author

Chris O'Toole (Colorado State '12, Chapman '15) recently finished a Screenwriting MFA. He has written for Livestrong, CBS, and other publications. Love, hate, and job offers can be sent to: otool102@mail.chapman.edu