Top 10 Most Controversial Music Videos in Pop

While Britney Spears has refused to apologize for her gun-slinging 'Criminal' video shoot, filmed in London where violent riots broke out just a few weeks prior, Rihanna has been rebuked by an offended farmer for her topless 'We Found Love' video shoot filmed on his fields in Ireland. While we await the finished products from Brit Brit and RiRi, we're taking a look back at the top 10 music videos in pop that stirred controversy and were met with criticism and outrage. From the sexually explicit, to the iconoclastic, to the downright violent, it's all in the countdown below.

10. 'Criminal'
Britney Spears, 2011

Britney Spears came under fire for packing heat with a prop gun on the set of her 'Criminal' music video shot in London's Hackney borough. Local Hackney Council politicians were outraged by the shoot's violent implications following local riots, looting and violence that occurred in the area just weeks earlier. But Brit and her team were unapologetic stating, "The video is a fantasy story featuring Britney's boyfriend, Jason Trawick, which literally plays out the lyrics of a song written three years before the riots ever happened." Stay tuned for the video's premiere to see how the rest of the 'Criminal' case will unfold.

9. 'Criminal'
Fiona Apple, 1997

Another outlaw makes our list. Fiona Apple was a criminal in her own right when she released this music video, not for "being careless with a delicate man" as her lyrics suggest, but for glamorizing the sickly skinny supermodel trend of the late '90s in her tiny tank tops and underwear. Apple, who a year later admitted in a Rolling Stone interview that she "definitely had an eating disorder" at the time of the video shoot, was accused of exemplifying the "Heroine Chic" trend ushered in by model Kate Moss and was called "an underfed Calvin Klein model" by the New Yorker upon the video's release.

8. 'Window Seat'
Erykah Badu, 2010

During Erykah Badu's guerrilla-style, crew-less, permit-less 'Window Seat' video shoot, the Dallas native walked the streets of her hometown stripping off her clothes until completely nude at the site where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, much to the surprise and shock of innocent bystanders. The song ends with the sound of a gunshot, and Badu falls to the ground as her body spills blood and spells out "groupthink." JFK assassination reenactment aside, Badu was charged with disorderly conduct for public nudity, a class C misdemeanor -- a charge that she challenged when she pleaded not guilty -- and eventually paid the $500 fine and agreed to serve six months' probation.

7. 'Dirrty'
Christina Aguilera Feat. Redman, 2002

Moving past the overtly raunchy exotic dancing in bikini tops and bottomless chaps, Christina Aguilera came under fire from critics for more than just scenes of suggested sexual orgies. The video was banned in Thailand after the translation of Thai text in the background of the boxing scene, hinting at illegal sex trafficking, was revealed. A sign in the video reads "Thailand's sex tourism" and "Young underage girls." Xtina's record label insisted that neither the singer, nor famed director David LaChapelle had a clue what the X-rated signs meant when translated.

6. 'Born Free'
M.I.A., 2010

M.I.A.'s graphic music video was meant to act as a piece of social commentary on genocide around the world and the growing anti-immigration sentiment in the U.S. Redheads are hunted by soldiers and beaten, shot and blown up in the violent visuals. Immediately pegged for its scenes of violence and nudity, 'Born Free' was met with much controversy, to which M.I.A responded, "It's amazing to me that is the state we're in today -- people are more moved by something synthetic than something real."

5. 'Love the Way You Lie'
Eminem Feat. Rihanna, 2010

Starring sex-symbol actress Megan Fox and 'Lost' star Dominic Monaghan, Eminem's Rihanna-assisted video for his explicit song about a destructive relationship was slammed by critics for blurring the boundaries of sexy and abusive. Reminding viewers of Eminem and Rihanna's own turbulent past relationships with Kimberly Mathers and Chris Brown, respectively, the video was slammed for glamorizing domestic violence as a beautiful leading lady physically fights with her handsome boyfriend, before passionately making out with him, only to start throwing fists and household objects again.

4. '... Baby One More Time'
Britney Spears, 1998

It may be hard to believe now, but back in 1998, Britney's belly-baring outfits in her debut music video caused quite the outrage among parents associations for its too-hot-for-TV teen sexuality. Catholic schoolgirl-gone-bad, 17-year-old Britney really shook things up when she escaped the confines of the classroom and suggestively danced around in the hallways in midriff-bearing tops.

3. 'S&M'
Rihanna, 2011

Rihanna's racy 'S&M' song is about sadomasochistic sexual fantasies, so of course the music video had to match! A latex-clad RiRi is shown tying up and whipping men, simulating sex with blow-up dolls and suggestively sucking on a banana in the video which was banned in 11 countries. In her defense, Rihanna told her critics the video and song were only superficially about sex and that they had missed the deeper meaning. "The song can be taken very literally, but it's actually a very metaphorical song. It's about the love-hate relationship with the media and how sometimes the pain is pleasurable," she told Vogue.

2. 'Judas'
Lady Gaga, 2011

Highly hyped and surrounded by controversy long before its release, Lady Gaga's 'Judas' really ruffled the feathers of member of the catholic community for its secularization of religious themes and Biblical characters. Gaga played a biker-chick version of Mary Magdalene opposite model-turned-actor Norman Reedus as Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, and sexualized the story with scenes of a baptismal menage-a-trois. "This is a stunt ... Lady Gaga tries to continue to shock Catholics and Christians in general," a spokesperson for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights claimed. Gaga's own creative director Laurieann Gibson even threatened to quit working on the piece mid-shoot for fear of being struck by an angry thunderbolt from above! Gaga later defended herself claiming, she's just "obsessed with religious art."

1. 'Like a Prayer'
Madonna, 1989

Before Gaga loved Judas, original boundary and button-pusher extraordinaire Madonna sent the media into a frenzy with her now-iconic iconoclastic music video. Condemned by The Vatican itself, critics accused the video, which took aim at racial profiling and religious guilt, of sacrilege and heresy. With its scenes of burning crucifixes, stigmata, and sexualized Saint statues, Madonna had no apologies for her intentionally controversial art. Pepsi, whose product was featured in the video, canceled their sponsorship contract with Madonna.

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Honorable mention should go to Van Halen's "Pretty Woman" It was the first video that MTv refused to play because the woman turned out to me a man in drag in the end. Oh....the horror.

January 28 2013 at 12:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When did Britney ever have a good girl image? She plays the crowd. Suckers.

October 07 2011 at 7:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tarek Benabdelwahab


How very telling that although men make most of the music out there, 8 out of 10 of these videos are by women. Apparently singing or rapping about the glories of killing cops and violence against women are perfectly acceptable if the singer is a man.

October 05 2011 at 6:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

All I'm gonna say is this, it don't matter WHAT anyone says or does, someone will be offended. Grow up, dry your eyes and move on to something more meaningful, like babies being left to die and ****.

Enough said.

October 04 2011 at 1:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

All I'm gonna say is this, it don't matter WHAT anyone says or does, someone will be offended. Grow up, dry your eyes and move on to something more meaningful, like babies being left to die and ****.

Enough said.

October 04 2011 at 1:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's true that in the entertainment industry, "Any publicity is good publicity."

Brittney must be celebrating today with 2 videos in this top 10! (And she sure is making a comeback! Good for her!)

And I'm sure Gaga and Madonna also are celebrating with this extra publicity.

By the way: Gaga, Madonna, Britney, the rest, thanks so much for making the world a more fun and entertaining place!

October 04 2011 at 1:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
beauty west

Ifor one,am old enough to remember when music had a story.A sad, happy, sexy, frivolous love story.You could hear the music and all the beats;hear the words to the song and actually feel something real.I will say some of the musicians today are terrific(u2,sting,cold play,the fray, even)but others that use sensationalism to sell their songs,suggest a lack of knowledge of the genre.All though,many do have classical and music school training,you would think they would use that to get ahead;not ugly words,slurs,racist remarks, nudity and just very bad taste.

October 04 2011 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to beauty west's comment

@beauty west, one could argue that Elvis used his pelvis to sell records, the Beatles used religious remarks and "hippie-long hair" to sell records, etc. I can absolutely do without the racist remarks, as that's my number one peeve, but as far as very bad taste...well, who knows?

I'm sure that 20 years from now most of the stuff we hear today will seem very tame.

October 04 2011 at 1:12 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

so its okay to call a thin girl a "criminal" now, even if she has a serious eating disorder? so we have officially reached the point where being overweight from eating too much McDonalds is okay and even encouraged and glamourized, but anyone who is thin is "disgusting" and even girls who have real eating disorders are called names like "criminals"

October 03 2011 at 8:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


October 03 2011 at 7:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The often (if ever) seen Tony Toni Tone video of "Lay Your Head On My Pillow" which received absolutely no air time because the group appeared naked. Stills from the video even appeared in the Sept. 1994 issue of Playgirl.

October 03 2011 at 4:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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