Music
These music videos were so controversial.

11 Music Videos That Were So Controversial, They're Unforgettable

These videos had everyone talking.

YouTube

A music video can say a lot about a musician’s artistic vision. Most artists take recording a song very seriously, but they also take filming a corresponding music video equally seriously. A music video can further convey what an artist was trying to say in their lyrics, and there have been so many music videos through the years that have practically outshined the song they were filmed for. Some artists prefer to take a theatrical approach to music videos, while others keep it classic and incorporate some good ol’ choreography into the mix. And while visuals are generally meant to be fun, some artists make a point to incorporate more provoking topics like religion, sex, or politics. These controversial music videos had fans talking when they were initially released, and years later.

There’s a number of reasons an artist might want to stir the pot with their art. For one, videos with shock-factor undoubtedly grab more attention. Other artists, such as Lady Gaga, pride themselves on making music with meaning. The pop star is known for incorporating religious imagery into her visuals (which hasn’t always sat well with critics). A few videos on this list are here simply because they will make you blush. Regardless of why they made this list, these 11 videos are truly unforgettable.

01
Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion — "WAP"

While male rappers have talked about sex in their lyrics for years, when Cardi and Megan did so in 2020’s “WAP,” all hell broke loose. Conservative politicians slammed the risqué song and radio stations bleeped out large chunks of the lyrics. The video was infused with an equal amount of sex appeal and featured a number of celebrity cameos. Was the video for the faint-hearted? Nope. But it was an instantly iconic moment in hip hop and racked up over 400 million views.

02
Kanye West — "Famous"

West prides himself on pushing the envelope with his music, but fans and critics alike thought he went too far with the 2016 release of “Famous.” The rapper found himself in a bout of controversy for the visual. In it, he depicted 11 different celebrities in the nude using wax figures without asking their permission. This understandably upset Taylor Swift, who ‘liked’ several posts criticizing the video and labeling it “revenge porn.”

03
Billie Eilish — "All The Good Girls Go To Hell"

The title of this track speaks for itself. Her fire-filled music video truly looked like hell IRL, and it didn’t sit right with religious groups. However, Eilish later clarified what the song was really about.

“Now as much as people want to believe this song is about me being a devil worshipper and being Satan, it’s not about that,” she said during a live show for for Verizon’s Pay It Forward Live series. “It’s about global warming, and we wrote this song like three years ago.”

04
Lil Nas X — "Montero"

Lil Nas X nearly broke the internet in March 2021 when he released the official video for “Montero” due to its inclusion of satanic imagery. The video showed the rapper giving satan himself a lap dance, which left conservative groups fuming.

But as Lil Nas X said, the video was all a ploy to make a statement about acceptance of queer culture. “You see this is very scary for me, people will be angry, they will say I’m pushing an agenda. But the truth is, I am. The agenda to make people stay the f*ck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.”

05
Lady Gaga — "Judas"

Lady Gaga made a lot of people angry with the release of her 2011 “Judas” music video — primarily religious groups. In fact, the president of The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights spoke out after Mother Monster’s video hit the internet. He was less than pleased with Gaga’s portrayal of Mary Magdalene.

“This is a stunt… Lady Gaga tries to continue to shock Catholics and Christians,” Bill Donahue said in a statement. “She is trying to rip off Christian idolatry to shore up her talentless, mundane, and boring performances.”

Gaga eventually defended the video in an interview with E! News (per MTV)."In my opinion, the only controversial thing about this video is that I'm wearing Christian Lacroix and Chanel in the same frame," Gaga joked. "This video is not meant to be an attack on religion. I respect and love everyone's beliefs. I'm a religious and spiritual person who's obsessed with religious art. I'm obsessed with it.”

06
Britney Spears’ "I'm A Slave For You"

While music fans have become desensitized to sex-fueled content through the years, there was a time when showing some skin was downright shocking. Cue Spears’ 2001 video for “I'm A Slave 4 U,” which angered tween parents everywhere. The video oozed sex appeal, and if your childhood was anything like mine, you were probably prohibited from watching it.

07
Christina Aguilera — "Dirrty"

Mud wrestling and chaps? That’s just a few of the provocative images Aguilera included in her 2002 video. “Dirrty” was the subject of controversy due to its mature, sexual themes, and there was even a Saturday Night Live skit that poked fun at the visual for being so provactive. For Aguilera, the video stood for empowerment.

“[It’s] my favorite video that I've ever done, to be honest — on a personal, fun note, because it's just so freeing, and it was the first one on an album that was about just finding my own independence from feeling told what to do by a label,” she told Billboard in July 2018.

08
Rihanna — "S&M"

Judging from the title of Rihanna’s song, one can surmise how sexy the video was. “S&M” was indeed full of whips, chains, and bondage, which made for a controversial moment in music video history. Rihanna didn’t seem to mind, though, and the visual’s director spoke out about the matter.

In an interview with MTV News, Melina Matsoukas defended the video’s creative direction. "When you do something that's provocative, that's usually a repercussion,” she said. “It's gonna be talked about or banned or slandered in some way. But it's making an effect and people are having a dialogue about it, so, to me, that's successful."

09
Childish Gambino — "This Is America"

“This Is America” tackled issues of racism and gun violence in America, and, naturally, conservatives quickly attacked Gambino for the viral clip. Still — the video racked up more than 700 million views, and a number of artists sent him high praises for taking on important political issues in his video.

10
Robin Thicke — "Blurred Lines"

Thicke caught flack for “Blurred Lines” and its corresponding video upon their 2013 release. The singer was accused of incorporating misogynistic messaging into the song, though, he said that was never his intent.

“You just kind of take it with a grain of salt,” Thicke later explained in an interview with NME. “The reason I started all of this is because I love music, I love to make music, and then, once I started to perform, I love to perform, so I just go for that part of it. Everybody is meant to get up and dance. That’s all the song is meant to do.”

11
Madonna — "Like A Prayer"

Religious groups immediately protested the release of “Like A Prayer.” Much like Lady Gaga’s “Judas,” which would arrive years later, the Christian community felt the song and video was deeply offensive. They deemed the moment Madonna burned a cross blasphemy.