Music videos aren’t always just a flashy sales tool to get eyes on an artist – they also give musicians the chance to give more of themselves to a piece of work, and really flesh out what a song is all about.
Sometimes the ‘fleshing out’ is taken pretty literally though, leading to videos that – whether making an artistic statement, or just using nudity for nudity’s sake – become hugely controversial for showing a bit of skin.
With health, lifestyle and sexuality expo Sexpo throwing a special retro edition in Melbourne next month, we thought we’d take a look at 10 of the most steamy, confronting and controversial music videos of all time, including some of the videos that even rage refuses to show.
‘Rub’ – Peaches
She’s no stranger to controversy, but still, Peaches’ ‘Rub’ has to be one of the most explicit film clips ever made. A celebration of the female form, ‘Rub’ explores many physical activities you wouldn’t even see late on SBS, and shows many sights that the average viewer may not have even been aware existed.
Making headlines around the world for its graphic depictions of nudity and sexual acts, ‘Rub’ is considered either a cinematic classic or just another sign of society’s downfall, depending on who you ask in the YouTube comments. Let’s be real though, Peaches’ first single was called ‘Fuck the Pain Away’, so it’s not like we weren’t warned that something like this was in the pipeline.
It also featured just as many women working on it behind the scenes as on-camera, so Peaches definitely put her money where her mouth is – although she put her mouth a lot of places in this one.
‘Girls On Film’ – Duran Duran
For some, there is no disappointment quite like watching Duran Duran’s ‘Girls On Film’ film clip, only to find that it’s the censored version. But for those who have seen the so-called ‘night version’, you might just have an idea as to why this song was so controversial upon its release, its mud-wrestling managing to get it banned from MTV, but also keep it in the charts for ages.
While the song was apparently meant to highlight the plight of models being exploited by the fashion industry, the band feel the message was lost somewhat in the controversy. Imagine that.
‘Untitled (How Does It Feel)’ – D’Angelo
While the majority of the world was probably suffering from hangovers or Y2k paranoia, D’Angelo decided to enter the new millennium by doing something a little more risqué. Yes, on January 1st, 2000, D’Angelo released the video for his single ‘Untitled (How Does It Feel)’, featuring the singer completely naked – and if the internet had been as robust as it is now, this clip may have just killed it the way the Y2k bug was supposed to.
The voyeuristic clip attracted equal parts criticism ad praise from viewers, and turned the singer into a sex symbol overnight – a blessing and a curse. D’Angelo was already reluctant about the idea, and the attention even made him take a step back from the industry.
‘Smack My Bitch Up’ – The Prodigy
When you have a song called ‘Smack My Bitch Up’, it’s sort of hard to imagine that the title would be the least controversial aspect to it, but that’s exactly the case for The Prodigy’s 1997 single. Accompanied by a video that involved drug use, violence, vomiting, nudity, and a sex scene, the clip was a little bit confronting to say the least.
But what shocked people about the clip even more was the twist ending that turns the whole thing on its head. We won’t spoil it.
‘Happiness In Slavery’ – Nine Inch Nails
Alright, maybe you’ve had enough straight nudity? Well let’s visit the other end of the controversial spectrum, and check out a video which is so violent that it had to be banned from television. It still packing plenty of nudity and sexual overtones, of course, and it pretty much starts out as a harmless bondage flick before transforming into a horrific snuff flick.
Famously, Trent Reznor one said that the video wasn’t created for shock value, but rather that “these were the most appropriate visuals for the song,” creating the clip as a way to protest the lack of artistic freedom he had with his previous record label. We’re guessing a strongly-worded letter didn’t quite have the same ring to it, Trent?
‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ – Mötley Crüe
Mötley Crüe might as well have been the poster boys for the rock and roll lifestyle of fast cars, beautiful women, and enough illegal drugs to make Pablo Escobar blush, and this video did everything it could to live up to those expectations. As a result, the clip for ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ was filmed in a Los Angeles strip-club, showing the band in their element, and possibly serving as a documentary for what they got up to on their days off (or every day).
There’s no deeper meaning behind this one, and it’s not exactly the most progressive clip on this list, but it certainly can’t be accused of false advertising.
‘Sex Dwarf’ – Soft Cell
If you bought a copy of Soft Cell’s Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret back in 1981 and threw it on your record player to hear their iconic version of Gloria Jones’ ‘Tainted Love’, you were probably having a fine time. However, by the time the first side of the record was up, you would have been exposed to ‘Sex Dwarf’, the notorious track that resulted in British police making copies of the song’s video.
A track dedicated to lust and sexual decadence, its film clip has to be seen to be believed. A few minutes of outright insanity, we’re not sure if this bloody video should come with a warning for sexual content, or a warning for the vegetarians among us. Either way, ‘Sex Dwarf’ is a wild ride.
‘Men’s Needs’ – The Cribs
There’s a pretty strong chance that if you’ve seen the film clip to The Cribs’ ‘Men’s Needs’, you’ve wondered what the heck was going on during the creative process. Featuring either a nude woman, a woman obscured by black boxes, or a woman in a leotard, depending on which of the three versions you’re watching, it sees her rampaging across the set as The Cribs do their best to play their track, making quite a nuisance of herself while the band mostly ignore her.
The uncensored versions kick things up a notch though, by throwing some graphic (if fairly low-budget) violence into the mix, making for a clip that offended plenty of Brits at the time – while others were just offended by Ryan Jarman’s distinctive vocals.
‘Pussy’ – Rammstein
Rammstein have always been a band who enjoy pushing boundaries. From their huge pyrotechnic displays, to their tendency to spray the crowd with a combination of liqueur and water from a rubber phallus during the song ‘Bück Dich’, they know how to push the envelope. It might seem like natural progression, then, that the group would have pretty much released a full on porn flick for their aptly-titled track ‘Pussy’.
Featuring fictionalised versions of each of the band’s members, the ‘Pussy’ video shows body doubles engaging in unsimulated sexual intercourse throughout the clip. Obviously, the video was well received by fans in Finland and Rammstein’s native Germany, where the track managed to hit #1 on the charts – their first #1 single in their home country!
‘Big Dick’ – Little Big
For a band who were once described as “a Russian mental patient’s answer to Die Antwoord,” Little Big could definitely be a little hard to take for some, just like their South African counterparts. With their track ‘Big Dick’ serving as the very first exposure that many people will have had to the band, it’s fair enough if you’re instantly put off.
‘Big Dick’ effectively serves as an ode to male genitalia, and the video definitely drives home that point very well, and we actually have to to give them major props for the level of creativity at play in this video, with some really well-done visual metaphors at work. We definitely have to wonder if any ideas were left on the cutting room floor.
For more X-rated fun, Sexpo goes retro next month, taking over the Melbourne Exhibition Centre from November 16 – 19 (were those dates intentional?). It’ll be bringing all sorts of wild stage performers, demonstrations, stores, games and bars, this time with a throwback flair. Find out more here.