MUSIC

13 of the Most Controversial Music Videos Ever

From Kanye West to Madonna, these gory and graphic clips got people talking — for better or for worse.

Music videos are a perfect opportunity to expand the story of a song.

The best music videos can showcase killer choreography, Halloween-ready attire, or movie levels of cinematic gold; others can spark controversies, no matter how well-intended. Whether centered around copious bloodshed or near-pornographic nudity (sorry, Mom and Dad), there's one thing all controversial music videos have in common: They get people talking.

Here are 13 music videos released over the past 30-plus years that have sparked disputes. Watch at your own risk.

Keep Reading Show less
New Releases

On New Album "Future Nostalgia," Dua Lipa Takes Female Empowerment to the Dance Floor

The English star's latest album is a fantastic collection of retro funk-pop.

Ever since first declaring her "New Rules" in 2017, Dua Lipa's music has come to represent independence, self-worth, and taking no s--t.

In the grand scheme of things, the English-Albanian singer rose to mainstream prominence fairly recently. But she first started uploading covers to YouTube ten years ago, and her new album, Future Nostalgia, isn't her first rodeo; she knows exactly what she wants, how she wants it, and how to get it. A thrilling dose of funk-pop, Future Nostalgia is the sound of a rising star long ready to stake her claim in the scene.

The title of the record itself even echoes the prestige Lipa has rightfully earned for herself. This is an album that you'll remember years from now, she seems to assert, and the album's glossy aesthetic borrows a handful of yesteryear's trends. The staccato strings of early single "Don't Start Now" demand to be spun at disco dance parties, while the jazzercise vigor of "Physical" nods to Olivia Newton-John's eponymous 1981 hit. "Hallucinate" parrots the oonzt oonzt of the late-2000s bloghouse boom that spawned DJs like Calvin Harris (who, a decade later, would enlist Lipa for their Top 40 hit, "Electricity"). Channeling the brilliance of predecessors like Madonna and Kylie Minogue with a modern twist, Future Nostalgia affirms that Lipa is one of the most important names in recent pop history.

Dua Lipa - Don't Start Now (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

Much of Future Nostalgia sounds fit for parties and club settings. "When this comes on, I want people to be like, 'OK, we're doing shots,'" Lipa said of "Physical," and her music has always radiated the cool-girl energy that would make you want to follow her on a ladies' night out. But past its disco-ball glow, Future Nostalgia boasts anthems of autonomy and confidence. On "Don't Start Now"—the kind of song that makes you want to lock down a boyfriend just to kick him to the curb—she declares to a pitiful ex that she's "so moved on, it's scary." On the braggadocious title track, she teases: "No matter what you do, I'm gonna get it without ya / I know you ain't used to a female alpha." Even when Lipa is lovestruck, like on the sizzling slow-jammer "Cool," she asserts that she's still "in control" of what she does.

During the album's latter half, Lipa delves further into her romantic side. But even at her most sensitive and vulnerable, sentimental moments like "Break My Heart" come with an impressive poise: "Had to love and lose a hundred million times / Had to get it wrong to know just what I like," she sings, her tone imparting that she won't settle for anything less.

Dua Lipa - Physical (Official Video) www.youtube.com


Future Nostalgia's final moments, however, feel like the club has suddenly been shut down. Slow-burning closer "Boys Will Be Boys" attempts to make a profound statement against sexism, although its half-baked jabs border on cringeworthy. "I know that there will be a man around to save the day / And that was sarcasm, in case you needed it mansplained," she coos, which sounds more like what a man would think mansplaining is. As a girls' choir comes in for the oversimplified chorus—"Boys will be boys / But girls will be women"—the song is a well-intended gesture that mostly winds up awkward and credulous. Female empowerment anthems don't have to be so reductively lucid; Lipa's most genuine girl-power moments meet her in the middle of the dance floor.

Satire

Madonna Preaches Equality from the Tub of Goo That Keeps Her Immortal

In an Instagram post, she muses on the topic of COVID-19 as "the great equalizer," from a marble bathtub full of rose petals.

Instagram

In an Instagram post over the weekend, Madonna preached about COVID-19 as "the great equalizer" from the security of a marble bathtub full of goo that keeps her immortal.

Looking almost unrecognizable to fans of her earlier stages of transformation, the 61-year-old music icon spoke of the coronavirus' lack of concern for human concepts like wealth or talent or race, all while hunched in an almost fetal position in the elixir that is slowly transforming her into an ageless being of pure net worth. Just like us, the "Queen of Pop" is stuck inside one of her many massive, luxurious homes and knows that we're all dealing with the same struggle.

That's why she has been sharing tweets and posts tagged #quarantine and #quarantine #staysafe and #becreative. She knows that if we don't keep our minds occupied with creative endeavors, we'll just spend our days wandering from room to room to one of the other dozens of rooms in our sprawling homes. Madonna knows that we can't all be as lucky as the supermarket workers who get to leave their homes and interact with ravenous crowds of toilet-paper hoarders for mandatory extended shifts as the pandemic spreads. The rest of us, like Madonna, only have the ten-thousand square foot homes that we own outright and enough money that we will never have to worry about being laid off, struggling to pay our bills, or being able to afford literally anything we ever want—around $570 million.

"We're all in the same boat," she said to the millions of Americans who were suddenly laid off and signed up for unemployment in the last week. "And if the ship goes down, we're all going down together." It's this kind of deep insight that can only happen as the elixir's blend of nutrients and rose petals works its miraculous changes, reforming her skull around her brain and completing the final stage of the transformation that will allow Madonna to go into a restorative dormant mode for the next hundred years—only to emerge when the Morlocks rule the earth and she can control them with her mind.

She posted her musings on Sunday with the text "No-Discrimination-Covid-19!!" It's a powerful message of equality from a woman who will instantly have her own medical team living in her home the moment she feels feverish. And when that tub full of goo does its job, and she finally does ascend to godhood among the freakish dregs of post-apocalyptic humanity, it's such a comfort to know that she thinks of us all as equals.

Thanks, Madonna!

TV

Is Jameela Jamil Queerbaiting (Even Though She's Queer)?

The Good Place actress received backlash for accepting a judge role on HBO's new voguing competition show. Then, she came out.

This week, The Good Place star and self-proclaimed "feminist-in-progress" Jameela Jamil received a great deal of backlash for being cast as a guest judge on Legendary, a new voguing competition show to be aired on HBO Max.

Voguing is a style of dance that rose in popularity from the Harlem ballroom/drag culture between the '60s and '80s, and it's since become a crucial aspect of black and Latinx LGBTQ+ culture and history. Some participants of ballroom culture also belong to "houses"—or shared residences with friends who become more like chosen family members—as many of them have been alienated from their biological families. All of this is to say that voguing, as popularized by the Madonna hit song and documentaries like Paris is Burning, is much more nuanced than just a bunch of fun dance moves.

It's great that many of the hosts and judges of Legendary, like Jamil, are people of color, but critics were quick to point out that Jamil was presumably straight, thus unfit to serve as a judge. She countered these arguments by coming out as queer.

"Twitter is brutal. This is why I never officially came out as queer," Jamil wrote. "I kept it low because I was scared of the pain of being accused of performative bandwagon jumping, over something that caused me a lot of confusion, fear and turmoil when I was a kid...It's also scary as an actor to openly admit your sexuality, especially when you're already a brown female in your thirties."

Nobody, Jamil included, should ever be forced to come out–but accepting the role as a judge on Legendary without having publicized her queerness seems hypocritical. Last year, Jamil turned down a role to play a deaf character because, although she was born partially deaf, she has since regained her hearing. "It wouldn't be appropriate for me to take that role and they should find a brilliant deaf woman to play that role," Jamil explained. "I think you have to make those choices and not be too greedy and make space rather than take space...I don't want to be part of erasure."

Ballroom is an incredibly particular subculture of the LGBTQ+ community, and as Jamil even admitted in her statement, her being queer doesn't automatically qualify her for a judging position, because she's not a member of that specific community. Still, she took the job, despite being completely new to the ballroom scene; is that not erasure?

Hustlers star Trace Lysette, a trans woman who used to work as a dancer, shared her feelings about Jamil's casting on Twitter. "Lol.. I interviewed for this gig," Lysette wrote. "As the mother of a house for nearly a decade it's kind of mind blowing when ppl with no connection to our culture gets the gig. [sic] This is not shade towards Jameela, I love all that she stands for. If anything I question the decision makers."



In Jamil's defense, she's made respectful endeavors in promoting inclusivity and gender equality; her secondary Instagram account, @i_weigh, celebrates body positivity, and she spent much of her time in the public eye as a persistent LGBTQ+ ally before coming out herself. But as many users have observed, the timing and circumstances of her coming out feel, unfortunately, like queerbaiting.

Are queer people in hetero-presenting relationships, like Jamil, valid? Absolutely. Is it fair to gatekeep within the queer community, questioning whether or not somebody is "gay enough?" Absolutely not. But for Jamil, in her relentless pursuit of divine wokeness, to denounce erasure of marginalized voices only to end up doing just that? It's incredibly disappointing.

MUSIC

Florida Man Sues Madonna: Should Concerts Start on Time?

"Ticketholders [have] to work and go to school the next day."

A Florida man is suing Madonna because she changed the start time of her show at the Fillmore Miami Beach from 8:30 to 10:30.

"Ticketholders [have] to work and go to school the next day, which prevent[s] them from attending a concert that would end at around 1:00 a.m.," the suit stated.

Nate Hollander's ticket did cost $1,024.95, so maybe he can't be blamed for expecting some special treatment. He also claims that he's unable to sell the tickets because the time change has caused the tickets to "[suffer] an extreme loss of value," making reselling "impossible."

For her part, Madonna is famous for being late. At a recent Las Vegas show, fans were told to arrive at 9:30, but she didn't show up until midnight. Because of the delay and the audience's subsequent outrage, over 500 refunds were issued.

Madonna - Material Girl (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

Apparently, Madonna doesn't see a problem with her lateness. During a recent show in Las Vegas, she announced, "There's something that you all need to understand. And that is that a queen is never late."

Who's in the right here? How many Nate Hollanders have arrived at work tired the next morning because some pop star they paid $1,024.95 to see decided not to honor the not-so-sacred tradition of concert timeliness? Should stars like Madonna be expected to be on time? Is their time somehow fundamentally more important than the audience's? Is that part of the power imbalance that makes a star a star?

Of course, the phenomenon of concerts that start extremely late isn't a new one, nor is it reserved for queens like Madonna. Concerts start late for a lot of reasons—and unsurprisingly, one of the main ones has to do with revenue. The longer people wait around for a show to start, the more likely they are to buy drinks and food, and the more they drink, the more likely they are to shell out cash at the merch table.

Naturally, technical and logistical issues can also play a role. Musicians typically have an extremely short amount of time to go from one show to the next, and innumerable things can go wrong with the setup.

According to Lauryn Hill, another famously late performer, her delayed start times are purposeful. "Me being late to shows isn't because I don't respect my fans or their time, but the contrary, It can be argued that I care too much, and insist on things being right," she said. "I like to switch my show up regularly, change arrangements, add new songs, etc. This often leads to long sound checks, which leads to doors opening late, which leads to the show getting a late start. This element of perfectionism is about wanting the audience to experience the very best and most authentic musical experience they can from what I do."

Lauryn Hill- Killing Me Softly www.youtube.com

While stars with cult followings like Lauryn Hill and Madonna are often forgiven easily for their lateness, do-it-yourself shows that start late often get a bad rep when they take hours to get the ball rolling. On the other hand, indie artists and venues are the ones who face the worst fallout from technical and transportational mishaps, and don't always have the cash to ensure that everything is running smoothly. Sound engineering is one of the most underappreciated and difficult jobs in the music industry—anyone who's ever run a sound table knows that sound equipment can be unbelievably temperamental—and so maybe we shouldn't be so quick to get angry when the sound check takes a while.

On the other hand, nobody wants to have to loiter around at their friend's EP release show for six hours, especially when there's no reason for such extreme lateness. But in some ways, when you've been waiting that long, finally seeing an artist come out and smash their set is just that much more rewarding.

Regardless, it seems that Madonna has met her diva match in one Nate Hollander, who's certainly rocking back and forth in some dark room right now, whispering, "See you in court."

MUSIC

6 Times Inductees Didn't Give a F*ck About the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Ironically, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is not very rock n' roll.

While it's rare to hear anyone excited about anything that happens in Cleveland, the music world is abuzz with news of the 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees.

Being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is among the top honors any musician can hope to achieve, and past inductees include a wide range of icons from Bob Dylan to Etta James to The Grateful Dead. This year's honorees include Notorious B.I.G., Whitney Houston, Pat Benatar, Dave Matthews Band, Depeche Mode, the Doobie Brothers, Judas Priest, Kraftwerk, MC5, Motörhead, Nine Inch Nails, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Todd Rundgren, Soundgarden, T. Rex and Thin Lizzy. Those who receive the most votes will be inducted May 2nd, 2020 at a ceremony at Cleveland's Public Hall.

While fans and media personnel take the Hall of Fame very seriously, it's not uncommon for rock stars to display nothing but nonchalance and cool when faced with this great honor, or even to snub it altogether—which, honestly, is pretty rock and roll. So, in celebration of the 2020 nominees, we've compiled a list of times musical icons didn't give a f*ck about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

1. Todd Rundgren

Todd Rundgren, among the 2020 nominees, met news of this honor with a simple, "No comment." This is the second year in a row Rundgren has been nominated, and many consider it a major slight that he has yet to be included in the hall of fame. He told Billboard last year: "I didn't expect it and have never cared about it. The hardest thing was keeping my fans' expectations within reasonable bounds because they are very naive about it. I'm not; It's some weird Illuminati thing and nobody understands how it works and who does the voting and the nominee selections and all that sort of crap.

I'm not looking for some organization to acknowledge me, somehow. Besides, the Hall of Fame doesn't make any sense to me because musicians don't have to retire. Athletes retire, and that's when they go into the Hall of Fame, because they're not playing anymore. But everybody (the Rock Hall) is inducting now is still playing, so how can you say you've got the measure of them? You don't. So, no, I really don't care."