Last week, the Ohio University Marching 110 spent days preparing to play the catchy summer hit song "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke for the halftime show during the OU football game against Austin Peay on Saturday. After days of practicing the music and then learning the choreography Thursday, it was decided on Friday that the band would not play the tune due to concerns from some in the university community.
Richard Suk didn’t think this song, this Blurred Lines, was particularly good — but it was catchy, arguably the biggest hit of the summer.
And so Suk, the Ohio University marching band director, added it to this season’s performance list, planning to unveil it during the Sept. 21 game against Austin Peay.
He had no idea what he’d stepped into.
As the band rehearsed, complaints popped up about the planned performance of the Robin Thicke song, which critics say glorifies rape culture. (Sample lyrics: I know you want it/I know you want it/I know you want it.)
In a Sept. 19 letter to the student newspaper, The Post, senior Allie Erwin pleaded with the band not to “further perpetuate rape culture at OU by playing this triggering, sexist and demeaning piece of drivel.”
>> Watch the Marching 110's performance of The Fox
A little more background on Blurred Lines: Its unedited video features three models in little more than flesh-toned thongs cavorting with fully dressed musicians Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I. Thicke performed it to national notoriety during last month’s MTV video music awards, while a near-nude Miley Cyrus twerked and grinded onstage and stroked both of them with a giant foam finger.
Still, the music-listening public seems pretty divided about whether Blurred Lines represents the threats of a rapist or the cheesy come-ons of a wannabe paramour. (“You’re an animal,” Thicke sings. “Baby, its in your nature/Just let me liberate you.”)
The song recently was banned at five British university campus bars, but in the United States, marching bands have performed it without incident. Members of Auburn University’s band, which provided OU with its arrangement, played it on ABC’s Good Morning America earlier this month. Rolling Stone magazine named Jackson State’s performance of the summer hit one of “10 Mind-Blowing College Marching Band Cover Songs.”
But there would be no Blurred Lines in Athens. Four days into the Marching 110’s rehearsal of the song, administrators asked Suk to pull the performance.
Suk, in his 17th year directing a band that has played songs that allude to abortion (Ben Fold Fives’ Brick) and drugs (Snoop Dogg’s Gin and Juice), said he didn’t find anything blatantly offensive in the song’s lyrics. But he didn’t want to make a political statement or upset anyone, he said. He agreed to kill the song.
“My only concern,” he said, “is where do we draw the line in the future?”
University officials, criticized by some students and alumni crying censorship, tried to allay those concerns in a statement released by spokeswoman Katie Quaranta: “We expect that this is an isolated incident and there is no interest or push on the institution’s part in censoring art at Ohio University,” it reads. “That is counter to our core values and respected freedoms at Ohio University.”
Suk, reached by phone today, sounded a little worn down by all the attention the incident was receiving. He said the band had moved on, even if the rest of the world hadn’t.
“I just want it to go away,” he said. “It’s become a distraction, when it’s really just a two-minute song.”