Blurred Lines/What Do You Mean?

Welcome to Music Monday!

Today I’m comparing two songs, instead of just one: Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke and What Do You Mean? by Justin Bieber (yes, the Biebs is a jerk, but let’s look at this particular song!)

A lot of feminists were perturbed by this song, including two of my favorite bloggers, Libby Anne and Melissa.

Melissa had this to say:

I thought about it, “It is a good beat for dancing isn’t it, I just don’t really like the words in that song.”

“Oh, why don’t you like the words mom?” My 7 year old persisted.

“Well, he sings about doing stuff to people that they don’t want him to do, and… he thinks it’s OK.”  I tried to explain.

Libby Anne: 

If she doesn’t understand why trivializing consent and speaking of blurred lines, If she can’t understand the problem with a song that trivializes consent and boundaries, a song where “I know you want it” is repeated again and again, she knows nothing about either the dynamics of rape or the concerns that motivate those who speak of rape culture.


So let’s look at Blurred Lines, written by Robin Thicke, T.I., and Pharrel Williams, released in 2013.

Talk about getting blasted

I hate these blurred lines

I know you want it

I know you want it

I know you want it

But you’re a good girl

I don’t know about you, but I feel kind of icky.

We all know how “good girls” are sexualized; Catholic nuns/”schoolgirls” are common sexy Halloween costumes. He also croons, “The way you grab me/Must wanna get nasty.” Is this a woman making express overtures about alone time with Thicke? Or is it a drunk woman just being flirty? Well, that’s why the lines are blurred, isn’t it?


Now let’s look at Beiber, and his song written by him, Jason Boyd, and Mason Levy and released in 2015.

What do you mean?

Ohh ohh ohh

When you nod your head yes

But you wanna say no

What do you mean?

This seems vastly more concerned about consent! Beiber constantly repeats What do you mean? throughout the song. He’s concerned about his partner’s wants, asking expressly what she means. That’s a lot more consent-centered than “I know you want it.”

Am I completely wrong? Do you have a different interpretation? A recommendation for next time? Leave a comment!


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