Thursday, March 13, 2014

Hold on a minute, Pharrell

Everyone thinks of Pharrell Williams as the music impresario with the crazy hat at the Grammies.  He's certainly prolific with the catchy hooks.  He's worked with Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Kanye West and Justin Timberlake

His biggest hit - Happy - bubbles with positivity.  Heck, it's on the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack.  It shows real mucisianship and features an inclusive call to join in Mr. Big-hat's fun:

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy  
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

Three songs before "Happy" on his album "G I R L", however, we find "Hunter".  The song is so generally sexually forward that it might have been on George Michael's 1987 album "Faith".  Our culture is that much more saturated with sex now than when "I Want your Sex" and "Father Figure" dominated MTV (a cable network that used to show music videos to teenagers whose parents were at work).  Maybe "Hunter" doesn't even stand out in today's pop music.

One line, however, brought me up short.  In the middle of his promise of pursuit, he intones:

If I can't have you, nobody can.

Excuse me?  In the middle of a pop song, however sexual it is, I was shocked to come across the most classic threat of a domestic abuser.  It's not right to just throw off that line in the midst of a pop song.  I might be even more sensitive to this if I had a daughter, but I can tell you that my sons won't be allowed to buy "Hunter" for their iPods.  

No one else seems upset by this.  Reviewers say "Hunter" evokes the musical styles of the Bee Gees and Prince.  NPR says "Even when Pharrell dares to come off as slightly predatory, as in "Hunter" — about tracking a woman — it's all done in the mildest manner possible."  
Again, excuse me?  What makes the jealous murder threat mild?  Does this song make anyone else uncomfortable?


Anne H. said...
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Anne H. said...

Right on Jeff. Thanks for noticing that line in Williams' song and pointing it out. IMO our culture is out of control. I'm grateful I raised our children in the 70s through 90s.