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The Most Controversial Music Videos of All Time

A new exhibition opening April 3 at the Museum of the Moving Image will celebrate music videos as an art form at the “forefront of creative technology, its role in pushing the boundaries of innovative production, its important role as an experimental sandbox for filmmakers, and its lasting effects on popular culture globally.” Groundbreaking videos will feature prominently, with original drawings, costumes, and more on display. The announcement got us thinking about the boldest images from music videos that have stuck with us over the years — those works that helped break the barriers of censorship and became the most controversial of all time. So, if you’re still wondering what the hell No Doubt was thinking by playing cowboys and Indians last year, or if Madonna can ever top the videos from her Erotica days, click through to see 10 music videos that pushed the envelope and made headlines. Feel free to add your own picks, below. In case you haven’t guessed by now, these videos are NSFW.

Nine Inch Nails, “Happiness In Slavery”

“Supermasochist” Bob Flanagan appeared in the music video for Nine Inch Nails’ “Happiness in Slavery” from the band’s Broken EP. If you’re familiar with the late performance artist’s oeuvre, which includes a nail through the penis spectacular (watch the great documentary SICK for more on that), then you won’t be surprised to find out that the video was widely banned for its gory imagery. Flanagan portrayed a slave who offered his body to a machine that tortured and killed him. During the 1990s, the dark recording was only available via bootleg VHS tapes. “These were the most appropriate visuals for the song,” Reznor said of the work in a 1992 interview. The frontman stated that his goal was to create a “bizarre and interesting visual experiment that did not look like a typical video,” emphasizing the importance of artistic control over his works. “Granted, this is an extreme example,” he admitted.

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