Since the beginnings of music there has been controversy. The best example of controversial music was the advent of rock and roll in the 1950’s that introduced electric instruments and a totally new sound. Adding to the harsher sound was lyrics often about sex and violence, it’s no surprise that many parents often attempted to ban ‘the devil’s music’ from their homes and teenage children.
Generational gaps in music preferences have always been around with artists constantly pushing the envelope on what is acceptable. Rock and roll music was one of the biggest hot button issues of the times. When Elvis Presley hit the scene, he was the first popular white rock artist and started the rock revolution. He was hugely controversial himself, with dance moves that exposed raw sexuality on stage, with his signature hip gyrations. There were rumors he enhanced his nether region by shoving a coke bottle down his pants.
Presently, rock music is accepted and embraced, but the controversy is still thriving in the music industry. From rappers using dark obscene lyrics to bizarre behavior and publicity stunts from enterprising musicians, the controversy and complaints remain consistent. Here is a list of the most controversial musicians of all time.
10. Kanye West
Kanye West has been in the center of a few controversies in the last few years. In 2013 he played at a wedding for the grandson of the president of Kazakhstan. Not the most ethically sound country in the world and the practices of its government have been called out by Human Rights watch. Kanye West also spoke his mind at the VMA’s in 2009 when Taylor Swift stood up to accept her Best Female Video of the Year award. Kanye rushed to the stage and took the microphone out of Swifts hands and proclaimed, ‘I’m sorry, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!’ He was referencing to Beyonce’s catching “Single Ladies” video. Kanye West is a passionate artist which can get him in trouble from time to time, and is not afraid to speak his mind no matter how controversial his opinion may be.
Eminem has been controversial in the music industry for his dark lyrics about sex and drugs but in 2009 he was accused of being homophobic with his album release Marshall Mathers LP 2 when careful listeners heard Eminem repeatedly using derogatory language to describe gay people. In his first installment of Matthew Mathers LP 1, Eminem raps about stabbing gay people. One of his collaborators announced that because of his lyrics she will donate to the LGBT Center. Later he invited Elton John out on stage with him during a concert to silence the critics. Eminem claims it was his alter ego Slim Shady who said those things and he is not homophobic himself.
Prince‘s song “Darling Nikki” is one of the ones that inspired parental advisory labels on music. Prince used overly explicit lyrics and has one song entitled “Sister”, which is an ode to incest. Prince might seem tame in today’s standards, but in the 80’s, he was one of the most controversial artists. He even changed his name to a symbol for a brief period of time.
Madonna has managed to offend nearly every country and religious group imaginable during her cutting edge career. She’s had many music videos banned, even as recently as 2012 when her Girls Gone Wild video was age restricted on YouTube. There are too many moments to list them all but the most memorable may be the one where she locked lips with Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2003.
6. Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga is the perfect combination of genius and crazy. Between her outlandish wardrobe choices on and off stage and a wide range of strange behavior its not surprising Lady Gaga makes the list. March 2014 held one of the most controversial performances that took place at the Southwest Music Festival. Lady Gaga stands by her decision to let vomit artist Millie Brown throw up on her twice during the performance. Brown chugged green liquid before sticking fingers down her throat and vomiting green all over the pop diva. Demi Lovato called Gaga out on Twitter suggesting she was glamorizing eating disorders.
5. Miley Cyrus
She was once a teen pop star, but in the recent years her name is related to a more risque style and general obscenity. She’s best known for her provocative lyrics, drug use and non-child friendly behavior. The biggest example ingrained in many peoples mind was the incident at the 2013 VMA awards when she proceeded to grind on Robin Thicke while doing questionable things with a foam finger. There was another incident not long after when Cyrus lit a joint on stage while performing in London.
4. Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy Osbourne began his claim to fame as the lead vocalist for Black Sabbath in the 1970’s and has become one of the most controversial rock artists of all time. He is best known for once biting the head off of a dove in front of record executives and the act was followed up with doing the same thing to a bat during a concert. Osbourne has been sued many times for complaints that he promotes suicide in his music but the courts consistently ruled in Osbourne’s favor. During his career, he was accused of being a satanist by religious groups and was demonized by the media. Despite the claims, he was a member of the church of England and prayed before each concert.
3. The Dixie Chicks
The Dixie Chicks were popular in the country music world until the beginning of the invasion in Iraq when they performed in London. During the introduction for the hit song “Travelin Soldier” they said,”Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence and we are ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.” The US media picked up the story and a huge controversy broke out, and a boycott started. In one anti-Dixie Chicks display, fans brought their CD’s to an event where they would be run over by a bulldozer. In 2006, the Dixie Chicks released a song “Not Ready to Make Nice” which was directed at the political controversy and death threats they received.
2. Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson‘s career is full of controversial moments that extend well past his litany of plastic surgeries and eccentric lifestyle. The most extreme moment was when he was video taped holding his young daughter Blanket over a three story balcony in Germany. His older children Prince and Paris always seemed to live strange lives, only ever seen with masks covering their faces. Michael Jackson had many child friends and was accused of two counts of child abuse, once in 1993 and in the 2000’s. The first case was settled out of court and the second was acquitted. During the days before anyone knew of Michael Jackson or Jackson 5, he had a strange childhood of his own often performing shows in strip clubs between performers.
1. Marilyn Manson
Marilyn Manson is the most controversial musician of all time for his dark music and obscene actions on stage which caused an uproar after the release of the bands second album Antichrist Superstar. Some schools even threatened to expel students who attended their concerts. Names of the band members were developed by choosing the first name of a known beauty and the last name of an infamous serial killer. The band had a cult following in the 1990’s and was blamed for multiple school shootings starting with Columbine High School. It was proven the shooters had no connection to Manson’s music and the media was criticized for using a scapegoat. Manson was also linked to the 2007 shooting in Cleveland when Asa Coon attacked the high school wearing a Marilyn Manson t-shirt and claimed to worship the bands vocalist instead of God.