12 of the Most Controversial Songs of All Time

From N.W.A. to Miley Cyrus, we look back at some tracks that truly stirred the pot.

If we can learn one thing from all these songs, it's that controversy sells.

Despite riling up millions and triggering heated battles across the world, many of these songs were extremely successful in their own rights. While some are anti-police and anti-fascism and others entertain Nazi sympathies and feature drugs and violence, all of these songs managed to rile people up (some more than others) and cemented their place in history.

Some songs are outright expressions of violence; others are vengeful responses to violence, but all unveil some of the darker, more brutal sides of the human mind. Many are stunningly relevant to today's most searing controversies.

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Rihanna and The Rolling Stones Can’t Get What They Want

Rihanna joins the likes of Aerosmith and Guns N' Roses in objecting to Trump using her songs. But what recourse do artists have?


Rihanna has joined an illustrious group of pop stars who publicly object to Donald Trump playing their songs at his rallies.

Like many in her cohort, the singer took to social media to voice her opposition. But what other recourse is there?

It turns out that politics, the music industry, and copyright laws are strange bedfellows. If recording artists want Trump to abstain from using one of their tracks, the quagmire of intellectual property law means they essentially have to politicize their brand in order to distance themselves from Trump.

Philip Rucker, the White House bureau chief for The Washington Post, tweeted that Rihanna's 2007 hit "Don't Stop the Music" was "blaring in Chattanooga as aides toss free Trump T-shirts into the crowd...Everyone's loving it." To which Rihanna promptly replied, "Not for much longer" and denigrated the Trump camp for holding one of "those tragic rallies."

Other artists who have openly protested Trump's use of their work include Pharrell Williams, The Rolling Stones, Adele, and Guns N' Roses. Frontman Axl Rose specifically accused Trump of "using loopholes in the various venues' blanket performance licenses which were not intended for such craven political purposes, without the songwriters' consent."

He took to Twitter to reaffirm that the band is opposed to being affiliated with Trump, but added, "Personally I kinda liked the irony of Trump supporters listening to a bunch of anti Trump music at his rallies but I don't imagine a lot of 'em really get that or care."

The standard practice of politicians using popular music depends on a mix between loose copyright laws and respect for the artist. Music attorney Marc Ostrow notes, "Usually what that after the artist makes his or her position objecting to the usage, the political figure voluntarily ceases to use the song." Trump has, unsurprisingly, not respected many artists' wishes.

This is owing to the fact that the artist, ultimately, has limited ownership of his/her song. Performing rights organizations (PROs) such as ASCAP or BMI manage licensing and royalties of artists' work, mediating between creators and whomever wants to use their work. Most high capacity venues like stadiums hold blanket licenses that apply to a large cache of media, but these need to be checked by the organizers of rallies and conventions, since such events can be excluded from a venue's license. If a song is covered by a licensing deal, then the song is legally in fair use, regardless of the artist's preferences.

In response, an artist can withdraw their work from a PRO and risk losing all royalties associated with intended radio and commercial replay, or they can follow in the steps of Pharrell and Aerosmith, whose respective lawyers have issued cease and desist letters to the White House claiming violation of trademark rights.

As Mick Jagger lamented after The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" ironically became Trump's de facto campaign song, there's little an artist can do. He's publicly complained, "They can play what they want" under blanket licensing deals.

NZ Herald

Ultimately, an artist's best recourse is to publicly denounce political figures who may be using their work to promote themselves. Social media estrangement is a strange substitute for lawful copyright. However, loosely written laws and the absence of honor in the Trump administration only widens the existing nexus of pop culture and politics. On the one hand, recording artists are spotlighting political conversations that are shaping art as much as legislature. On the other hand, it's another instance of politicians and industry giants getting what they want at the expense of everyone else.

Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.

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FILM | Let's talk about the 'Jumanji 2' trailer...

FILM | The trailer for the Jumanji sequel is here, and we're excited! We also have questions...

To the blazing tune of Guns 'n' Roses 'Welcome to the Jungle', Jumanji returned to our lives. Any nineties kid worth their salt knows and loves this movie. It was a staple of many of our childhoods, and, for others still, it was one of their first introductions to the filmography of the late Robin Williams. Following the story of a sinister board game whose gameplay affects real-life, it featured rhinos, monkeys, melting floors, Victorian game-hunters, and a young Kirsten Dunst. A minor classic in its time, and a nostalgic favorite for many, the flick has been updated and revitalized for the 21st Century, and the trailer landed just days ago.

In it we see four high schoolers of varying social backgrounds being thrown into detention. Whilst cleaning out the school's basement they find an old Nintendo-style console. When plugged into a television, it pulls them into the game, and turns them into the avatars they chose. All of them wildly different from the people they are in real-life. Inside the game they face many of the things we loved about the first movie: charging natives, wild animals, and hyper-aggressive nature. Also seen is: running and jumping off cliffs, motorcycles, and a Nick Jonas powered helicopter pursuit.

So this definitely looks to be more of a flat-out action-adventure than the original. Is that a bad thing? Well, not necessarily. Given that they're playing the action comedy angle, this could work. It certainly seems to have a sense of humor about itself. Many of the jokes seen so far revolve around the juxtaposition of awkward teenagers in the bodies of people who are their polar opposite. The nerdy guy is now a beefcake. The awkward girl is now a foxy ass-kicker. The attractive popular girl is now a fat guy. The cool tall black kid is now, well… Kevin Hart. This could get old fast, but right now it's kind of fun to see The Rock talking about missing his clarinet.

Of course, this feels like a radical departure from the original. In the original, the Jumanji world came in to ours, in this, we enter the world of Jumanji. This does feel like an efficient way to avoid a point-by-point re-tread of the original, but does it also compromise the spirit of the first that we all loved? We know that a sci-fi retread of the subject matter didn't leave a lasting impression in 2005's Zathura. That said, these changes seem to be making the film more like a cross between The Matrix, Ready Player One, eXistentZ, and Gunmen of the Apocalypse. Like with most things, it remains to be seen whether these changes will work.

One thing is certain, the cast looks good. Duane Johnson is consistently fun to watch, Jack Black looks like he's back on safe comic ground, and Karen Gillan seems like she's ready to kick some butt. I've never been the biggest Kevin Hart fan myself, but he looks like he may be more fun in this.

All in all, while their seems to be a concerted effort to make this "Not your dad's Jumanji", there does seem like there is something fun going on here. I think we can all admit to being, at the very least, curious, about what they are doing here.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle hits cinemas December 20, 2017