A Brief History Of Nudity In Music Videos

Kanye West, your problematic fave, has done it again. His 10-minute video for ‘Famous’ – already a controversial song thanks to the factually incorrect lyric, “I think me and Taylor might still have sex / I made famous that bitch faaaaaamousnow has a very queasy video indeed.

Based on the 2008 painting ‘Sleep’ by the American artist Vincent Desiderio, it depicts ‘Ye in bed with fellow famouses including wife Kim Kardashian, her musician ex-boyfriend Ray J (their sex tape leaked in 2007), Donald Trump, Kanye’s ex-girlfriend Amber Rose and, yes, Taylor Swift. All are naked. The figures appear to be waxworks of the people themselves.

Even as a Kanye fan, it’s very hard indeed to defend the Tidal-exclusive video. It’s been reported that Swift was horrified and it’s not hard to see why. Kanye has described the ‘Famous’ video as an artistic comment on the nature of fame, but this is pure voyeurism, and the definition of exploitative. How would you feel if someone were to film you sleeping naked and upload the video to the internet? It doesn’t make any difference if these are waxworks: the effect and intention are the same. It’s about power and who has it.

Yet the seemingly voyeuristic nature of the video is the only shocking thing about it. We’ve become accustomed to naked flesh in music videos; it’s a long time since Duran Duran’s ‘Girls On Film’ seemed racy. Here, then, is a brief history of nakedness in music videos.

1981

Duran Duran, ‘Girls On Film’

Ah, it was a simpler time in the early 80s. A bit of topless mud wrestling was it took for this little number to be banned by the BBC and heavily edited for MTV (it’s the uncensored version we’ve embedded below). You could have just blurred it out, guys. Looking back, a woman grappling with a sumo doesn’t seem so outrageous, eh?

Most shocking moment: Erm, when a masseuese oils up a sumo wrestler in the middle of a wrestling ring? It shocking like, “I am genuinely shocked someone thought this was a good idea for a music video.

Naughty bits count: 12 nipples and one bum.

1993

Madonna, ‘Justify My Love’

Madge’s video features a little light bondage and some same-sex kissing. It was banned by MTV, so Madonna sold it on VHS. Sounds mad, but is it much different to ‘Ye making ‘Famous’ available only to those paying for a Tidal subscription?

Most shocking moment: A couple in getting steamy in bondage gear. Though if you’re shocked by that in 2016 you must be at least 8000 years old.

Naughty bits count: Two nipples and one bum.

1997

Prodigy, ‘Smack My Bitch Up

In 2010 Britain’s Performing Rights Society declared this the most controversial song of all time. Upon release, it was condemned by women’s right groups due to its fairly indefensible lyrics, “Change my pitch up / Smack my bitch up.” Ah, but the Essex ravers had a get out of jail free card: the video depicts a night hedonistic bad bastardry via POV, only to reveal the antagonist is female.

Smack My Bitch Up by The Prodigy (Completely Uncensored) from Max on Vimeo.

Most shocking moment: Take your pick. The bit where the antagonist pukes in a sink it certainly not pretty.

Naughty bits count 12 nipples, two bums and one front bottom.

2000

D’Angelo, ‘Untitled: How Does It Feel’

Goddamn it, this is sexy. Virginia souls singer bares all here, creating one long, continuous shot of his killer bod. Even though he’s empowered, there’s something vulnerable about the way he puts it all out there, emotionally in the song and physically in its video.

Most shocking moment: It’s not a shocking video by any standards, but that close-up of D’Angelo’s sweat-slicked belly button is certainly something.

Naughty bits count: Two nipples and a little bit of pubis.

2009

Rammstein, ‘Pussy’

We’re now into the realms of actual hardcore porn. It is not actual Rammstein having sex; they hired body doubles to do the dirty work. The Berlin industrial metallers were thinking with their trousers when they recorded this song, which features lyrics, “You’ve got a pussy / I have a dick… Let’s do it quick!.” It’s like an adult nursery rhyme. We can only give you the censored version here because we are not a porn website. Side note: Skepta pulled a similar trick with the cringeworthy ‘All Over The House’ in 2011.

Most shocking moment: Just too many to mention.

Naughty bits count: It is genuinely impossible to count the naughty bits in the uncensored version. Believe us, we’ve tried.

2013

Blurred Lines, Pour It Up

In February 2013, Billboard announced that they would be counting YouTube views toward their charts. Coincidentally, Robin Thicke released the sleazy, explicit video to ‘Blurred Lines’ a month later. The Billboard announcement arguably increased raciness in music videos – see Rihanna’s ‘Pour It Up’, Miley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’ and Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’, all released within seven months of the change.

Most shocking moment: The song was banned at many UK universities due to its fairly depressing lyric “You know you want it”, and the video, with Pharrell and Thicke prancing fully clothed around topless models like a right couple of sordid bellends, certainly didn’t help. The balloons bearing the words “Robin Thicke has a big dick” are shockingly shit.

Naughty bits count: 63 1/2 nipples and four bums.