Let’s get it on.
And by “it,” we mean a Supreme sweatshirt featuring Marvin Gaye’s iconic What’s Going On album cover, because this is now a product available for purchase in our post-modern capitalist landscape where anything and everything can be slapped on a T-shirt—as the skate brand is doing with its new Gaye-themed capsule collection. (To clarify, this is not a criticism of Marvin Gaye, who was an angel on Earth who changed music forever.) But that’s not the only financial win the legendary soul singer’s estate has scored recently.
On Thursday, a five-year legal battle between Gaye’s estate and pop music pair Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams came to a satisfying conclusion when a judge ruled that Thicke and Williams are guilty of copyright infringement, and will have to pay Gaye’s family nearly $5 million in damages. Why? Thicke and Williams’ 2013 single “Blurred Lines” is such an obvious rip-off of Gaye’s classic jam “Got to Give It Up,” it’s frankly remarkable that the ruling took this long.
It’s yet another nail in the coffin for “Blurred Lines”—a huge smash hit on the charts that’s nonetheless been intensely scrutinized and criticized for its misogynistic and fairly sexist lyrics ever since the song first dropped. Everything about the track has been the topic of intense discussion, from its stolen melodic origins (Gaye) to its hyper-sexualized music video (which launched the career of Emily Ratajkowski, woke Instagram model du jour) to whether or not the song is actually good (the beat is incredible, but that’s only because Marvin Gaye came up with it, duh).
The music video’s director, Diane Martel, meant “Blurred Lines” to be a commentary on sexism, not an endorsement, but her interpretation wasn’t well received. “I love Helmut Newton and as I sat and thought about the ideas for what the girls could wear in the video, some images of his work came to mind,” Martel told Grantland (R.I.P.). “I wanted to deal with the misogynist, funny lyrics in a way where the girls were going to overpower the men. Look at Emily Ratajkowski’s performance; it’s very, very funny and subtly ridiculing. That’s what is fresh to me. It also forces the men to feel playful and not at all like predators. I directed the girls to look into the camera, this is very intentional and they do it most of the time; they are in the power position.”
Whether or not you think “Blurred Lines” slaps, it’s a comfort to know that Marvin Gaye, the person who actually wrote it, is going to be compensated for his hard work, even in death.