There has always been a fine line between understanding and misinterpreting messages created by artists when they express themselves through their music. While the artist may see the bigger meaning to their music through the use of different words or images, those words often stir up controversies as some topics run too deep for the public to accept. Below are 10 artists who have been targeted for their use of phrases, words or references in their songs.
In the introduction to her love song "XO" on her 2014 CD “Beyoncé,” Beyoncé used a clip from NASA’s public affairs officer Steve Nesbitt from 1986. The clip went as follows: Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation…obviously a major malfunction.
What was occurring? The space shuttle Challenger was breaking apart right after liftoff, and 73 seconds up, it blew apart. The result was horrendous as each of the seven astronauts inside killed.
Those in the space community did not take the use of the clip inside a pop song lightly, and according to spaceref.com, they stated space exploration should not be treated as trivial and this moment was part of history. Spaceref.com continued by stating, “NASA works everyday to honor the legacy of our fallen astronauts as we carry out our mission to reach for new heights and explore the universe."
In response, Beyoncé said spoke to ABC News and said, “The song 'XO' was recorded with the sincerest intention to help heal those who have lost loved ones and to remind us that unexpected things happen, so love and appreciate every minute that you have with those who mean the most to you.”
9 J-Cole—“Jodeci Freestyle”
This line offended autism activists for it depicts a very negative and inaccurate stereotype of those with autism. The Anti-Bullying Alliance paired up with autism activist Anna Kennedy to create an online petition, demanding J-Cole not only apologize, but delete the inaccurate lyrics altogether from the song. They’ve collected 4,000 signatures on the petition and still have another 1,000 to gather to meet their goal.
J-Cole responded with nothing, but his most genuine apologies.
“I want to educate myself more on Autism, and I'll gladly own my mistake and serve as an example to today's generation that there's nothing cool about mean-spirited comments about someone with Autism,” he said in response to the situation.
8 Lil Wayne—“Karate Chop”
Controversy arose when Lil Wayne made a reference to beating someone during sexual acts and also declaring he wished to destroy the person and give them the same manner of damage imposed on Emmett Till.
Emmett Till was a black teenager only fourteen years old from Chicago who was visiting family in Mississippi in the year 1955. While there, he supposedly whistled at a white, married woman and as a result, the husband and half-brother scraped his eyes out before beating him, shooting him through the head and dumping his innocent body in the river with barbed wire around his neck.
The insult Lil Wayne said in his music was so extreme, PepsiCo Inc. dropped their deal with Lil Wayne, and according to The Huffington Post, PepsiCo Inc stated Lil Wayne’s, “Offensive reference to revered civil rights icon does not reflect the value of our brand.”
7 Robin Thicke—“Blurred Lines”
With the line “I know you want it,” sung repeatedly in the R&B song "Blurred Lines," the song immediately become linked to sexual abuse and Robin Thicke took the hit. While his song may be not as derogatory towards women as many other songs in the industry, woman became enraged at this idea of men treating them as objects.
As Kirsty Haigh, Edinburgh University Students’ Association vice president told The Guardian, “It promotes a very worrying attitude towards sex and consent. This is about ensuring that everyone is fully aware that you need enthusiastic consent before sex. The song says: ‘You know you want it.’ Well, you can’t know they want it unless they tell you they want it.”
6 Baauer—“Harlem Shake”
Hitting Youtube were thousands of versions of the Harlem Shake to Baauer’s catchy song. Only there were two problems: Baauer didn’t have copyright access to pivotal singing points in his music, and two, the dance move called “The Harlem Shake” that people were picking up to the song were far from the actual Harlem Shake. Those people originally from Harlem were offended because this dance was an art to them, not something to toy around with on the Internet for a few glory moments.
The sketchy part lies in the fact that the artists singing the lines “Do the Harlem Shake” (sung by Jayson Musson) and the line “con les terroristas” (sung by Hector Delgado), were never informed their vocals were being used, and therefor this song had massive copyright issues. Who deserved the royalties? The credit? Did Baauer have the license to use this song? According to The Daily Beast, Baauer claims to have gotten the “dudes voice at the beginning somewhere off the Internet.” No excuse.
5 Kanye West—“I’m in It”
The lyrics from this song are, um, pretty graphic to say the least and downright disturbing and degrading depending on if you know the message Kanye West is trying to preach. On one ear, we have lyrics spewing out saying, “Your pussy’s too good, I need to crash/Your titties, let ‘em out, free at last.” And on the other ear we have this bizarre, warped way of describing a form of the Civil Rights Movement and women being liberated according to pigeonsandplanes.com.
4 Rick Ross—“Black and White”
When Rick Ross made an uncalled rap attack on Trayvon Martin, things became heated. His lyrics were “Forbes dot come, I’m the Telfon Don/Too close to a n****s as a motherf**king bomb/ Trayvon Martin, I’m never missing my target/B*tch n****s hating, tell me it’s what I’m parking.”
Seventeen-year old Trayvon Martin was the victim of a fatal shooting in which he was unarmed. Prior to the shooting, he was going to his father’s finances house after returning from a convenient store.
As people became uneasy with the unsettling lyrics, he was asked to send a reasoning for his lyrics to Vibe magazine. His response revolved around the idea if you are a,“black person or a person of any color for that matter in this country, you have to be accurate…even when you’re walking down the street, playing music from your car, you have to stay on point.”
3 Eminem—“Rap God”
In this song put out by the lyrical-mastermind, Eminem is under scrutiny by everyone for saying sentences such as, “Little gay looking boy So gay I can barely say it with a 'straight' face looking boy,” throughout his up-beat, quick-pace, head-nodding song "Rap God."
For those avid listeners of Eminem who know his story behind his alter-ego Slim Shady, it's hard to believe Eminem is attacking anyone and has harsh feelings towards the gay community, for as he told Rolling Stone in an interview, “Well, look, I've been doing this shit for, what, 14 years now? And I think people know my personal stance on things and the personas that I create in my music. And if someone doesn't understand that by now, I don't think there's anything I can do to change their mind about it.”
In his memoir, Eminem said he changed a line in his lyrics in “My Name Is” because the sample he used was supposedly created by a gay activist who did not like the a gay reference. Eminem actually did change the line—this was a personal decision.
He says using the word is the same idea as calling someone a punk or an a**hole. He continued by telling Rolling Stone, “And, not saying it's wrong or it's right, but at this point in my career – man, I say so much sh*t that's tongue-in-cheek. I poke fun at other people, myself. But the real me sitting here right now talking to you has no issues with gay, straight, transgender, at all.”
2 Ozzy Osbourne—“Suicide Solution”
When nineteen-year-old John McCollum killed himself by gun, his parent’s filed lawsuit against Ozzy Osbourne as their son had been listening to his album Blizzard of Ozz containing the song “Suicide Solution” as he ended his life.
“But you lie there and moan/Where to hide, suicide is the only way out/Don't you know what it's really about,” are one set of verses in the song. The song is about Osbourne’s struggle with his self-destructive outlets, this song particularly about alcohol.
However, the court rejected the lawsuit, explaining John’s parents couldn’t prove the song had provoked him to take away his life.
1 Prince—“Darling Nikki”
This song sparked the fire of controversy within the industry so much that Al Gore’s wife created a parental advisory sticker to attach to musician's CDs. This song had lyrics describing a sexual frenzy with a woman named Nikki who is a sex fanatic. The song goes into great detail about taboo topics, and ends with Nikki not even being present after the rendezvous, but just leaving a note, telling the narrator to call if he ever wanted to go for another 'sexcapade'. Prince's song caused such a hype that the government eventually became involved.