Pharrell Williams

He's respects Blurred Lines and women ... Pharrell Williams. Photo: Supplied

Maybe you can call Pharrell Williams the unlikely feminist.

That would be the man whose song, Happy, was the sound of last summer, whose collaboration with Daft Punk, Get Lucky, was the sound of last winter and whose duet with Robin Thicke, Blurred Lines, was the topic of every second outraged Twitter conversation in 2013.

Ask him about his solo album, the one with the intriguingly arranged title of G I R L (of which more soon), he will tell you that the record is "not about me" but about "the full spectrum of work that expresses my affinity [with women]".

He'll say, for example, that the opening track, Marilyn Monroe is not about an idealised woman but the extraordinary in any woman, that “it's what makes a woman different from others that makes her special”.

Now, many male artists talk about love and respect for women - usually their mothers, sometimes their wives - but not all of them follow through either with their actions or supporting bread and butter issues such as reproductive rights and representations on boards and in legislatures. Why is he different?

"Why am I the way I am? Because first and foremost women have been so good to me in my career. Over 22 years they've paid for essentially everything I have, along with my entire audience," says Williams, under his new trademark big blue Mountie hat and a lot of colourful rather than bling-full necklace chains down his T-shirt-clad chest.

“Women are for one my muse and how can you rightfully continue to accept things from them when they are not treated equally? My theory and my feeling is not perfect, it's probably flawed. Why? Because I'm human, I'm not a machine; I don't work on algorithms and integers. I can't tell you how many atoms there are in this room.

"But what I can tell you is what's right and what's wrong and women not being paid the same as men is completely unfair. In a world where every man, along with every woman benefits from ... a [woman's] agreement to give birth, something that we [men] cannot do, it doesn't make sense to me at a time when we've had a space station that's been orbiting the world for close to 20 years and we have a rover sending information back and forth on the surface of Mars, in 2014, we are trying to tell women what they can and can't do with their bodies.”

If you're wondering, Williams capped and spaced the letters of G I R L so that people would ask him why and get his response: "In those spaces is my point of view. I'm not going to tell you that it will solve the problem. I'm not telling you that I can solve the problem, because I can't, because I'm a man. But slowly and surely we can eat away at that illusion, that hallucination the planet is under that this is a male-dominated world. It is not a male-dominated world but a male-dominated perception in this world.”

Speaking of perceptions, as an avowed feminist then was he uncomfortable with the furore around Blurred Lines last year, a song which was widely attacked as effectively endorsing some kind of date rape.

"Why would I be uncomfortable? I respected it, I respect it because I'm not a woman,” Williams says, animated. “The video treatment was written by a woman and directed by a woman and it was her idea. And the lyrics, it says that 'man is NOT your maker' and 'you don't need no papers'. No papers meaning you're not a possession, you are a human being. That man is not your maker means he is not your God, nor can he produce it, he can only contribute to one.

"The other lyric: people would say 'oh, he's calling us animals, he's trying to domesticate you'. Yeah, he thought you were an animal, he is trying to domesticate you, but we are only one chromosome away from apes. At the end of the day there is a correlation. If you ask the scientists we did go from all fours to standing straight up, all of us. Depending on what you want to believe or not want to believe. But at the end of the day, what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom is, as [neuroscientist] Dr Ramachandran would put it, the apes reach for fruit and man reaches for the stars.”

Could it be that Blurred Lines is really an even more unlikely feminist statement? That may be a step too far, but Williams has to go and that's all we're going to get.

Pharrell Williams plays at the Future Music Festival in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, Saturday to Monday.