The pornification of pop is a debate that’s been raging for years. But it’s a futile debate, because being ‘explicit’ has never harmed any artist’s career.
Putting “video banned by MTV!” on a press release is one of the most desperate PR ploys known to man. MTV never “ban” videos – they simply refuse to play ones they think might offend their viewers.
The Prodigy’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up’? Far from being axed by the network, it won two MTV Awards in 1997. Since then it’s been aired fairly regularly, despite containing graphic scenes of heroin use, vomiting and vandalism – a bit like a night out in Luton.
But ‘explicit’ doesn’t have to mean ‘stupid’. It just usually does. Here’s a selection of videos that are either bold, daring, sexy, puerile, perversely entertaining – or simply eye-wateringly extreme.
Aphex Twin – Windowlicker
Chris Cunningham’s 10-minute parody of gangster hip-hop videos, featuring 127 profanities before the song even begins. The nubile dancers – with the face of Richard D. James – triggered countless weird and confusing teenage wet dreams. Er, so we hear. Cough.
Cradle of Filth – From The Cradle Of Enslave
Highlights? Full-frontal nudity, deformed midgets, self-harm, and the image of vocalist Dani Filth being force-fed his own ripped-out heart. Or am I thinking of the new N-Dubz
Madonna – Justify My Love
Wikipedia classifies this song in the genre of ‘porn groove’, which is idiosyncratic, but kind of accurate. The bondage scenes caused a minor stir at the time, but really the most shocking thing about the song is the fact that it’s co-written by Lenny Kravitz and doesn’t totally suck
The Dandy Warhols – Bohemian Like You
Not massively explicit, it’s true, but at one point there’s a grainy shot of a rail-thin hipster with his balls hanging out. Pretty much like a Vice magazine cover shoot, then.
Duran Duran – Girls On Film
This video has it all: a woman in a nappy grappling with a sumo wrestler, an oiled-up fat bloke, and a man in a horse mask waving his bum at the camera. The 80s were weird.
The Cribs – Men’s Needs
Like most ‘controversial’ videos, this one combines nudity with extreme violence. Here, a naked woman wafts around the band while they play, before decapitating Ryan Jarman and lopping off brother Ross’s arm, like the world’s most annoying groupie.
Bjork – Pagan Poetry
If you’ve ever wanted to see Bjork simulating fellatio – relax, it’s arty – then this is the video for you.
Marilyn Manson – (s)AINT
In which we see self-proclaimed God Of Fuck Marilyn Manson self-harming in a bubble bath before indulging in a marathon of cocaine and kinky bondage sex. What, no quiet night in watching ‘Come Dine With Me’.
Nine Inch Nails – Happiness In Slavery
In this snuff movie-esque clip, vaguely reminiscent of an episode of ‘Sexcetera’ gone wrong, a masochist is strapped, naked, to a metal torture device which slowly drills into his flesh before ultimately ripping his insides out, draining his blood for use as garden fertilizer. A feel-good classic.
Rammstein – Pussy
Directed by Jonas Åkerlund (of ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ fame), so we shouldn’t be surprised that it features close-up footage of a cock (and I don’t mean singer Til Lindemann).
The Strokes – Juicebox
Drunken texting, vomiting on the pavement, gay fumbling in a toilet cubicle – it’s basically the average indie fan’s night on the town. None of it’s as entertaining as David Cross’ cameo as the clueless DJ, though.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Y Control
There’s some sinister stuff involving a dead dog and some spooky-looking children, culminating with a boy cajoling a girl into chopping off his hand. It’s essentially ‘The Wicker Man’ as re-enacted by readers of Nylon magazine.
Justice – Stress
Supposedly ‘hard-hitting’ and ‘gritty’, but it doesn’t look much like Paris to me. Where are all the mime artists and blokes cycling past wearing stripy jumpers carrying baguettes.
Jay-Z – 99 Problems
Our hero gets gunned down in the final sequence. Supposedly, MTV would only show it with an introduction from Jay-Z himself explaining that it was a metaphorical death, not a real one. What next, a warning at the start of ‘Thriller’ reassuring viewers that it’s not the actual exhumed corpse of Jacko dancing around like that?
Sigur Ros – Viðrar Vel Til Loftárása
Not remotely explicit, but boundary-probing in a way, in that it features two teenage boys kissing (5.24) – and makes it look epic and romantic, rather than playing it for shock value. Also includes extreme, no-holds barred close-ups of fish. The lyrics, if you were wondering, translate as: “Mumble mumble, shnerdle, herdle, erm, have we done three verses yet?”
Soulwax – E Talking
A cheery A-Z of drug-taking that successfully lampoons the clubbing experience by making it look authentically hideous. Runs out of steam at the end though – what the hell is yayo?
Placebo – Protégé-Moi
Why are orgies in rock videos always unrepresentatively devoid of men? Would the sight of hairy male arses pumping doggedly away remove the mystique? Yes, it would. But still – a little verisimilitude wouldn’t go amiss.
t.A.T.u – Beli Plaschik
In which the faux-lesbian Russian duo get naked, for some reason. Then one executes the other (who is heavily pregnant). And still no-one took any notice, because the song wasn’t half as good as ‘All The Things She Said’. There’s a lesson in there.
NERD – Lap Dance
Am I the only one who thinks this song sounds like ‘I’m The Boom King’ by Flight Of The Conchords.