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Skirting Visual Controversy: 4 Musicians Who Have Pulled Their Own Videos

A scene from No Doubt's now-removed video for "Looking Hot"
A scene from No Doubt's now-removed video for "Looking Hot"

Recently No Doubt pulled the video for their song "Looking Hot" in response to criticism that it was discriminatory against Native Americans -- ironic, considering November is Native American Heritage Month. Smooth one, Stefani.

Still, the revived '90s ska band shouldn't feel too bad. They're in some pretty good company. It seems that when musicians hand over the reins of music videos to directors, just about anything can happen, including things that the artists feel go too far and force them to remove their own videos before someone else can. And it can happen to the best of them.

4. The Flaming Lips feat. Erykah Badu, "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face"

This year the Flaming Lips released an all-star collaborative album called The Flaming Lips with Heady Fwends, but now it seems soul singer Erykah Badu is no longer a fwend of the Oklahoma band. The falling-out happened over the video for this track, "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face," a cover of Roberta Flack's 1972 classic.

The hyper-sexualized video featured an almost-nude Badu, who was already known for going starkers in her own videos, but apparently had requested her nudity to be edited out of the Flaming Lips video and felt violated when it was released without edits. The falling out resulted in the video being pulled and re-released in a new version of the collaboration featuring Amanda Palmer. It also put the kibosh on Badu's possible performance with the Lips at this year's Free Press Summer Fest, which front man Wayne Coyne mentioned in an interview with us.

3. Rebecca Black, "Friday"

Rebecca Black became famous for maybe being the worst singer and performer on earth with the worst song ever. That's hyperbole, of course, but "Friday" did capture people's attention in the exact opposite way it was intended as Black became an easy punchline for most of 2011. Unfortunately, many took it too far and threatened the singer herself, who is a minor.

In any case, somebody at Black's record label and production company, Ark Music Factory, decided they could make more money if they started charging people to watch the viral video, which is just... what the fuck? Why would I pay to listen to a bad song? Black's response was to take the video down and sue Ark to get out of her contract. She succeeded and eventually put the video back up for free.

  2. Michael Jackson, "Black or White"

This single from MJ's album Dangerous is probably more famous for the controversy over the video than the song itself. The video premiered as a special simulcast on four different TV networks, garnering 500 million viewers. But people were shocked when, at the end of the video, Michael transformed back from a black panther into his 1991 form (halfway-to-alien MJ, by that time) and started doing sexually suggestive dances and violently breaking things.

MJ apologized for the sexuality and violence and pulled the video for edits. He then re-released it, but his solution was even worse. The scenes of destruction now had digitally inserted racist and anti-Semitic graffiti, ostensibly as a metaphor to show Michael killing racism but which people didn't quite understand. At that point, networks said to hell with it and just banned the video outright.

1. Madonna, "American Life"

In 2003, Madonna, like a lot of others, was pissed off about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and more specifically pissed off at her country and President Bush. These things were the inspiration behind her American Life album and eponymous single. But when she made the video for the song, she decided it went too far. One scene in particular featured her throwing a hand grenade to President Bush, which he then used to light a cigar. If this was the Madge of the '80s, she probably would have just put it out anyway.

But, since this was 2003 and the Dixie Chicks had just almost killed their career by criticizing W., Madonna pulled the video and apologized. She then released an edited version of the video which, unlike the case of Michael Jackson, actually solved the problems.



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