Earlier this year, a Los Angeles jury awarded the children of Marvin Gaye nearly $US7.4 million after determining that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams copied the music of their father to create Blurred Lines. Thicke and Williams plan to appeal the verdict. We look back on everything we’ve learned from the bloody litigation.
1. Robin Thicke is an innocent man
You can call Robin Thicke many things, but a man with a modicum of self-respect is not one of them. Thicke’s deposition might be described as brutally honest. He said that he “didn’t give a fuck” about the litigation, and then proceeded to thoroughly detail his own failings as an artist and as a human being.
A prouder man might have kept the lie going. Yes you would expose yourself to huge damages, but at least you would be remembered as the creator of an iconic song. Robin Thicke is not so proud. He would much rather escape all liability and have people think he was either a fraud or grossly incompetent.
Did Thicke actually contribute to the creation of Blurred Lines?
“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 – 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. So I started kind of convincing myself that I was a little more part of it than I was and I –because I didn’t want him – I wanted some credit for this big hit. But the reality is that Pharrell had the beat and he wrote almost every single part of the song.”
Thicke is a man painfully aware of his own ineptitude and the giant cosmic chop out the universe keeps strangely giving him. Did he contribute anything to the song? Did he even earn his spot on that unholy triumvirate? No, he “was just lucky enough to be in the room.”
But at the very least his artistic output was half-decent though yeah?
“It’s so hard to listen to. It’s like nails on a fucking chalkboard. This is like Stanley Kubrick’s movie Clockwork Orange. Where he has to sit there and watch… Mozart would be rolling his grave right now”
That’s all well and good, but how does he explain his comments to GQ magazine when he said that he had told Pharell that Got To Give It Up was “one of his favourite songs of all time” and that “we should do a song with that kind of groove.” Or when he told Oprah Winfrey that it was strange being in a legal battle with a personal hero who “inspires almost half of my music”?
Now a prouder man might have hid a drug habit to preserve their reputation. Thicke is not so proud. He concedes that he “didn’t give a sober interview” all of 2013. Thicke very specifically attributes these comments to “Norco” which is “like two Vicodin in one pill.”
2. Pharrell Williams is a secret puppet master who can’t read sheet music
Now that we know Robin Thicke gave absolutely no contribution to Blurred Lines we have to ask: why was he given top-billing on the writing credits, even above Pharell Williams? Why would anyone on this earth consciously seek to give any kind of undue credit to Robin Thicke? Unless of course they knew that the song was stolen, and they were setting them up for a copyright clusterfuck. Yes, it’s pretty clear Pharell Williams is the brains of the operation. Robin Thicke? Just the fall guy. A patsy. A slimy scapegoat. Aside from some pending indecent assault charges – Thicke is completely innocent!
But the conspiracy goes deeper. Pharell Williams says he can read sheet music. But when pressed in cross-examination to identify notes and duration in a transcription of the song, Pharrell responds 8 times “I’m not comfortable.”
And if you didn’t think this was bizarre enough, Pharell expresses a deep concern for the discrimination white people suffer in the entertainment industry. “It’s the white man singing soulfully, and we unfortunately in this country don’t get…get to hear that as often. But there’s a lot of incredibly talented white folk with really soulful vocals, so when we’re able to given them a shot…you hear all these masterful voices that have just been given…an opportunity to be heard.” Well, what more proof could you possibly need that the world is run by an ancient cabal of middle-aged rappers? Pharell may as well have brought out Jay-Z for a guest verse and a Quickening. Oh, and there’s a cosmic connection between Pharell Williams and Marvin Gaye. When asked whether Gaye influenced him, Pharell responded, “he’s an Aries. I respect him”.
3. Blurred Lines does kind of sound like that Marvin Gaye song – but all songs sound the same
So you’ve had a listen and you’ve quickly worked out that Blurred Lines sounds pretty similar to Got To Give It Up and maybe also Stuck In the Middle With You. But is the song an outright copy? Sure the bass lines and the rhythm track are similar. But you might say that most funk songs have a similar structure. Given the simple nature of pop songs isn’t there huge potential for similarity? Aren’t all pop songs pretty much the same?
Are we supposed to believe that the Gaye family own the rights to a bass line and a cowbell? Will I never hear another song with a high-pitched “whoop” in the background?? What about clanking bottles? Are you telling me my bottle-clanking days are over as well?
How are artists supposed to come up with new ideas if they’re not influenced by those who came before them? Didn’t Bono once concede that every U2 song “ever written was a rip-off of a Lou Reed song”? Your honour, if you take away our right to steal ideas, where are they gonna come from, her?
Besides Blurred Lines and Got To Give It Up are far from identical. I hope counsel for Williams and Thicke directed the jury to the one distinguishing feature of Blurred Lines, namely it’s completely original date-rape subtext. How can any song be said to be similar to Blurred Lines if it isn’t thematically preoccupied with non-consensual sex?
4. The Gaye family is litigious
When the verdict was read out, Marvin Gaye’s daughter wept actual physical tears. “Right now, I feel free,” she said. “ Free from… Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s chains.” Now don’t get me wrong – I can appreciate anyone’s desires to be free from Robin Thicke’s chains. Just the thought of it is reducing me to tears right now. But is this a reasonable reaction?
Marvin Gaye’s family owns the copyright in all their fathers’ songs. They stand to make about $7.4 million US from the verdict. They also want to enter into negotiations for ongoing royalties.
And if you weren’t already convinced they were money-grubbing bastards, in an act of pure mean-spiritedness, they asked for a declaration that T.I be made liable too, despite a jury verdict that T.I was not guilty of infringement.
5. Marvin Gaye and Robin Thicke make similar music
While the Gaye family have secured themselves a sizeable payout, they’ve also unintentionally caused the name ‘Marvin Gaye’ to be uttered, repeatedly, in the same breath as ‘Robin Thicke.’ The whole litigation has caused us to think long and hard on similarities between the two artists. I had never heard Got To Give It Up before this litigation, but rest assured I hate it now. The whole litigation has retroactively painted Marvin Gaye as a horny frat boy in my mind. I’m even fairly sure I can remember seeing Marvin Gaye in the video clip wearing a beanie; chasing a terrified Emily Ratajowski around a chair.