In an epic pairing of two of the music industries most titanic super producers, Pharrell Williams and Rick Rubin have taken to Rubin’s Shangri-La Studio to discuss music and its evolution over the past several decades. Brought to us by GQ, the two cover a wide-ranging discussion, talking about everything from the famed “Blurred Lines” lawsuit and the discourse it has caused within the industry, to their early days and influences, Pharrell’s love for fashion, and much more.
Most notably, Pharrell deep-dives into the “Blurred Lines” legal battle that concluded in 2018, which ruled that the song copied Marvin Gaye’s 1977 classic “Got to Give it Up.” The two were subsequently forced to pay nearly $5 million USD to Gaye’s family. Within the new video segment, Pharrell continues in stating that the two songs only share a “feeling,” which irrefutably can’t be copyrighted.
Pharrell shared the details behind his production process both as a solo artist as well as alongside Neptunes production partner Chad Hugo. He shares that they often “try to reverse-engineer the songs that do something to us emotionally and…figure out if we can building a building that doesn’t look the same but makes you feel the same ways.” He continued, “I did that [with] ‘Blurred Lines’ and got myself in trouble.”Rubin interjected, saying that the track “is nothing like” Gaye’s 1977 hit. “It hurt my feelings because I would never take anything from anyone. And that really set me back,” Skateboard P notes.
Rubin posits that the case sets a dangerously thin line for the music industry, especially modern-day songwriters and producers, who will be forced to restrain their creativity for fear of copyright lawsuits:
It’s bad for music because we’ve had an understanding of what a song is, and now based on that one case, there’s a question of what a song is…It’s not what it used to be because in the past, it would be the chords, the melody, and the words…And your chords, your melody, and your words — none of them had anything to do [with Gaye's song]. It leaves us as music-makers in a really uncomfortable place making things because we don’t know what you can do.
You can watch the two discuss the lawsuit and more above.