The Evolution of Banned Music Videos

Even though it’s 2013, the public still hasn’t quite gotten over nudity, religious overtones and political statements in art. At least, that’s the case we’ve been seeing when it comes to music videos this year. With “Blurred Lines” and “Wrecking Ball” inspiring protracted New York Times think-pieces and summoning their own camps of supporters and dissenters this year, we were reminded of some of our favorite music videos that got similar reactions when they first hit the public. Think you can handle it? Check them out below. 

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"The Next Day" - David Bowie (2013)

Earlier this year, YouTube “accidentally” banned David Bowie’s new music video for “The Next Day,” which featured Bowie as Jesus surrounded by corrupt priests, flogging prostitutes, and actress Marion Cotillard as a resurrected saint. YouTube lifted the ban shortly after, saying it had been a mistake. Either that, or they couldn’t find a way to justify banning Bowie while having videos a thousand times more politically incorrect on their site. 

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"Born Free" - M.I.A. (2010)

In 2010, M.I.A. turned heads with her controversial video for “Born Free” that made a gutsy statement on racism and conformism in the 21st century with its graphic depiction of redhead genocide. The video now lives on Vimeo

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"The Sun" - The Naked and Famous (2011)

Of course, no band with a name like The Naked and Famous could get by in their career without having a little fun with their name. The New Zealand rockers lived up to this with their stripped down video for "The Sun," (banned from YouTube, now on Vimeo) directed by New Zealand-based directing team Special Problems. You may know one of the creative studio’s founders, Joel Kefali, as the man behind the video for mega-hit “Royals” featuring his fellow Kiwi, Lorde. 

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"This Note’s for You" - Neil Young (1988)

In the history of MTV’s “WTF” public relations moves, banning Neil Young’s satirical smirk at big-brand sponsors like Coke and Budweiser in "This Note’s for You" ranks high in the channel’s early gaffes. Especially given the network was trying to establish itself as the new revolutionary in music t.v. at the time. Not that it mattered. The ban was lifted and the song won Video of the Year, though the damage to Neil Young’s impression of MTV was done. 

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"Dead End Street" - the Kinks (1966)

BBC is hardly known for being strict about censoring dead bodies; the British news channel does far more justice in showing the gruesome but realistic side of tragedy and crisis when reporting news than, say, American news outlets (cough, CNN). But when it came to entertainment in the 1960s, this wasn’t so much the case. In its first ever music video ban, the network banned the Kinks’ video for "Dead End Street" for featuring a faux corpse popping out of a coffin. Thankfully, BBC’s come a long way since then.

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"Girls on Film" - Duran Duran (1981)

Unlike Mötley Crüe’s video for “Girls, Girls, Girls,” the tamest of all music videos set in a strip club to get banned, Duran Duran went all out in their music video for "Girls On Film," which featured more skin and significantly raunchier clips, making its MTV ban slightly less surprising. 

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"Pour It Up" - Rihanna (2013)

In terms of quickest videos to get knocked off YouTube before coming back with an “Explicit” warning stamped on them, Rihanna’s video for "Pour It Up" takes the cake. The video, which features the singer’s way-scandalous version of twerking (and strip clubs ‘n dolla bills, natch), was censored just ten minutes after it was uploaded to her VEVO channel in October. “IN TEN PHUCKING MINUTES BRO?” tweeted the singer. Umm… don’t know what to tell you girl. 

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