10 Most Controversial Music Videos of All Time; Feat. Rihanna, Christina Aguilera, Madonna, M.I.A [VIDEOS]


While Miley Cyrus (Wrecking Ball) and Robin Thicke (Blurred Lines) have earned the title of the new enfant terribles in the music industry with their videos, which are also incidentally the most watched on the Internet, Enstars put together a list of artists who paved the way for controversial music videos.

(*Note: some videos contain explicit content.)

1. Like a Prayer - Madonna

Madonna came, she saw, and she conquered back in the Eighties, blazing the trail for music divas like Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, and M.I.A. Back in the day, her name became synonymous with controversy for her music and videos, but this one in particular put her name right on top of the list of offenders. She spurred an army of haters, from religious groups for the video's blasphemous use of Christian imagery (Stigmata, burning crosses, and cavorting with a black saint) to people who accused it of exploiting a symbol of evil (the KKK) to rack up record sales. The whole fracas was highlighted when the Pope actually banned Madonna from Italy.

Pepsi was using the song for one of its advertising campaigns, but after reactionary groups demanded that any corporation associated with the single be boycotted, the beverage giant caved in and dropped Madonna as its spokeswoman.

2. Smack My B**** Up - Prodigy

As if the lyrics of the song were not enough, the electro-psych band took the abrasiveness a notch above with its video, makingTrainspotting look like a tame beast. The video was banned on MTV, the music channel only aired it on one occasion -- after a growing demand from fans that it be shown -- during its late night slate. The video also attracted rebuke from the National Women's Organization for its negative portrayal of women.

3. Born Free - M.I.A

The militant streak of M.I.A. was amplified in the video of 'Born Free,' which was inspired by clips of the extrajudicial killing of members of the LTTE (the terrorist group M.I.A supports) by the Sri Lankan army. The singer-songwriter relayed the inspiration as a genocide against red-heads. It was shot in California and directed by Romain Gavras. The explicit nature -- portrayal of military force and brutality - of the video caused it to be banned from YouTube in the US and UK.

4. Looking Hot - No Doubt

No Doubt got into trouble for its portrayal of Native Americans in the video for Looking Hot. The video premiered during Nativity American History month which caused an even bigger furor. The band immediately pulled the video off the Internet and issued a statement of apology:

"As a multi-racial band our foundation is built upon both diversity and consideration for other cultures. Our intention with our new video was never to offend, hurt or trivialize Native American people, their culture or their history. Although we consulted with Native American friends and Native American studies experts at the University of California, we realize now that we have offended people. This is of great concern to us and we are removing the video immediately. The music that inspired us when we started the band, and the community of friends, family, and fans that surrounds us was built upon respect, unity and inclusiveness. We sincerely apologize to the Native American community and anyone else offended by this video. Being hurtful to anyone is simply not who we are."

5. Jeremy - Pearl Jam

The music video for Jeremy came out pre-Columbine, and depicted a bullied misfit in high school who eventually shoots himself in front of all his classmates. Due to MTV's restrictions on depiction of violence, the ending of the video where Jeremy puts the gun in his mouth and shoots himself was edited out, leaving it up for suggestion. A lot of people assumed that he shot his classmates. After the Columbine massacre, the video was rarely aired on MTV and VH1.

6. Dirrty - Christina Aguilera

This one got Aguilera into trouble with Thailand. The video showed a scantily clad Aguilera and a bunch of dancers grinding in a boxing ring. What most people missed was the hidden message,  which hinted at illegal sex trafficking in Thailand. There were signs written in Thai in the backdrop which when translated read, "Thailand's sex tourism" and "Young underage girls." Aguilera claimed to have no knowledge of what the signs meant. Thailand banned the video from airing in the country.

7. Happiness in Slavery and Closer - Nine Inch Nails

The Nine Inch Nails beat the herd with numbers if not only shock value, two of the videos by the industrial-rock band were banned for a while. Artist and famous masochist, Bob Flanagan, was featured in Happiness is Slavery, which was banned for its excessively gory imagery. But frontman Trent Reznor stuck by the video. "These were the most appropriate visuals for the song," he said in an interview with Billboard magazine. He also said that it was a "bizarre and interesting visual experiment."

Closer was visually disturbing, featuring a severed pig's head and a crucified monkey amongst other things. The song was released around the same time as Prodigy's Smack My B**** Up, both songs were aired together in a special late night slate on MTV.

8. Pagan Poetry - Bjork

Bjork's Pagan Poetry was banned for its sexually explicit content. The award-winning documentarian Nick Knight, who directed the video, spoke about how it came to be:

"I wanted to strip her down. She's actually quite raw, womanly and sexy. There's a different side to her that doesn't come across normally in her videos. That's what I asked her to do and that's what she did... I gave her [Björk] a Sony Mini DV camera and asked her to shoot her own private scenes [...] She asked me to make a film about her love life, so I merely gave it back to her and said, 'Film your love life.'" 

9. Man Down - Rihanna

In the video of the song, Rihanna plays the role of a woman who shoots a man who sexually assaulted her. The bit where she shoots the perpetrator in the head was quite graphic and detailed. The Parents Television council issued a complaint against the video and asked MTV and BET to stop airing it. Rihanna responded to all the criticism via Twitter:

"I'm a 23 year old rockstar with NO KIDS! What's up with everybody wantin me to be a parent?" and later: "U can't hide your kids from society, or they'll never learn how to adapt! This is the REAL WORLD!"  

10. Heart Shaped Box - Nirvana

The video for Heart Shaped Box was rife with imagery that subverted the Catholic church. It also featured disconcerting visuals like a young girl in a Klu Klux Klan robe, reaching out for human fetuses which hang from a tree. All these disturbing elements were incorporated in the Wizard of Oz-themed video.

The director's cut of the video was recently released as part of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of In Utero.

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