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Song Thicke with controversy

Online petition wants singer banned from Juno Awards

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Crystal Schick / Winnipeg Free Press

Imaginary Cities performs with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for the Manitoba Rocks! series during JunoFest at the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg on Friday. The Manitoba Rocks! series is taking place from Friday March 28 to Sunday, March 30, 2014.

In Blurred Lines, arguably the most popular song on the planet in 2013, Robin Thicke utters the line "I know you want it" 18 times.

The backers of an online petition want to see Thicke nixed from the 2014 Juno Awards on the basis the ºber-hit "contributes to rape culture" by "suggesting there is a 'blurred line' with regard to consent" to sexual acts.

A petition on Change.org calls for Juno organizers to strip Thicke of his three nominations this year and remove him from the lineup of performers at Sunday night's awards broadcast from Winnipeg's MTS Centre.

As of Friday afternoon, that petition had only 819 signatures, while the video for Blurred Lines had been viewed more than 300 million times.

On Friday, Juno officials shrugged off the online demand, the latest in a series of petitions and airplay bans aimed at Thicke in North America and Europe.

'You could have petitions about hip-hop songs all day long. Blurred Lines was one of the biggest hits around the world. Are people really, truly broken-hearted and offended by it? I don't know. He's a great performer; He kicks ass. I don't think so'

-- John Brunton, longtime executive producer of the Juno Awards

"You could have petitions about hip-hop songs all day long," said John Brunton, the CEO of Insight Productions and the Juno Awards' longtime executive producer, speaking to media before the unveiling of the stage set at the MTS Centre.

SDLqBlurred Lines was one of the biggest hits around the world. Are people really, truly broken-hearted and offended by it? I don't know. He's a great performer; He kicks ass. I don't think so."

Thicke is nominated for artist of the year, fan choice of the year and best pop album for Blurred Lines.

The title track has connected with "so many people on so many levels," said country singer Johnny Reid, who will co-host Sunday's broadcast along with pop singer Serena Ryder and rapper Classified.

"I'm a father of four kids, and all my kids love that song," said Reid, who is nominated for adult-contemporary album of the year. "I can't really tell you if they understood most of the lyrics. They just enjoyed the grooves."

Ryder said she has written racy lyrics and second-guesses herself when she hears kids sing them. Blurred Lines, she said, "has a really good beat" and professed to love dancing around to the song.

"Everybody has their idea of what they think lyrics should be in their songs," said Ryder, who's up for four Junos this year, including songwriter of the year.

"When I write music, I just make noises and sounds. And then I find out what the words are afterwards.

"I feel like the sound of a word is sometimes even more important than the actual word. I feel like there's poetry in sound."

Thicke, who was not present at Friday's stage-set unveiling, has repeatedly said Blurred Lines is misunderstood.

"I think the kids get it. I just have to deal with that," he told the BBC in November.

"We were just trying to make a funny song, and sometimes the lyrics get misconstrued when you're just trying to put people on the dance floor and have a good time.

"We had no idea it would stir this much controversy. We only had the best intentions."

Feminist critiques of the song maintain there can be no mistaking the message conveyed by the song. The author of the Change.org petition, Catherine Vanner, argued Blurred Lines trivializes sexual assault through lyrics such as "I'll give you something big enough to tear your a-- in two."

At least 20 British universities banned the song. But in North America, Thicke is more infamous for his MTV Video Music Awards performance of the tune last year, where Miley Cyrus introduced the dance move known as twerking to a mainstream television audience.

A repeat of such a duet at Junos is unlikely, except as an ironic gag. But even so, Brunton said audiences north of the border wouldn't get too worked up about it.

"In Canada, I don't think we care about that stuff or take it too seriously," he said. "I don't think we have a very powerful religious right."

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 29, 2014 A13

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