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Justice "Stress"
A still from "Stress" by Justice

The most controversial music videos of all time

British music videos are going to be given age ratings – we look at ones that thrilled and shocked the world

British music videos by artists signed to Sony, Universal and Warner will have to be sent to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to be awarded an age-rating, in order to help parents stop their children seeing inappropriate videos online. The labels will then have to pass on the ratings to YouTube and Vevo, with both platforms working on technology to help link the ratings to their age controls.

Strangely, the ratings will only apply to videos actually made within the UK – which as Gizmodo points out – means that we may soon see offshore video production islands cropping up in their droves.

Of 130 videos that have been submitted to the BBFC, only Dizzee Rascal’s "Couple Of Stacks" has been awarded an "18" on account of the fact that it shows Dizzee brutally murdering two people with a knife.

In honour of the news that the BBFC will now be dealing out age certificates, we take a look at the most controversial music videos of all time.


First up, this tune’s brilliant. Secondly, the video, first posted on Kanye’s website, really really pissed everyone off. Directed by Romain Gavras, the film follows a group of Parisian youths causing havoc in the banlieues of Paris, spraying graffiti over underpasses, mugging middle-aged men and setting fire to cars. It’s a hell of a joyride, but one that sparked outrage in France, leading some to accuse it of voyeurism and demonising French black youth. Eventually, Justice put out a statement.

"The film was never intended as a stigmatisation of the banlieue, nor an incitation to violence, nor above all, as an underhanded way to deliver a racist message," they said. "From the beginning Stress was meant to be a clip unairable on television for a track unairable on the radio and we have refused any television broadcast of the clip, so as to impose it on no one."


As well as being a song with a controversial lyrical refrain, the video goes on a journey through one particularly hedonistic and destructive night out through the city’s underbelly. All from the POV of the protagonist, the Smack My Bitch Up video depicts cocaine use, violence, nudity, car theft, and excessive alcohol abuse. You name it, this video has it.

Directed by Jonas Akerlund, the first person vid goes on a night out like no other. At the end, through a mirror, the video shows its hand – the main character, the one in charge of all this madness, is a woman. Cue some love from feminists, along with some hatred. Initially, the video was banned in the UK and US, but was eventually allowed to be shown after midnight.


Odd one this one. Gainsbourg’s electro single "Lemon Incest" is a duet with his daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg, who was 13 at the time. The two sit slightly awkwardly on a huge, black bed, with a shirtless Serge comforting her in a quasi-lover kind of way. It came under fire for glamourising paedophilia and incest.

Later on in her career, Gainsbourg looked back on the experience favourably. In an interview with the Guardian she said: "Oh, I was not innocent singing it. I knew what I was talking about. But for me, it wasn’t a problem. I had fun with it. Plus, there was pureness behind it. It’s really the love of a father and daughter. It says in the song – the love that will never do together. And, you know, even then I imagine I was used to his excitement about provocation. This is what he was good at."


The single from Nirvana’s In Utero puts a dangerously skinny Jesus figure on a crucifix and has him picked at by crows. There’s a little girl in a Ku Klux Klan outfit trying to pick off foetuses hanging from a tree. It’s easy to see why it pissed off a lot of people but Cobain & Co. were never afraid of controversy.

Directed by Anton Corbijn, it turned out to be the last video that Nirvana ever made and arguably the most provocative.


It felt as if people would never ever stop talking about this video, co-directed by Rihanna herself. Described as "self-indulgent" and "pure misogyny" by the Guardian, a columnist in the New Statesman said "she didn’t know what was going through Rihanna’s head when she decided to make this video". For all those anti-RiRi there were many who revelled in the rampaging, gory, slasher movie homage.

Rihanna and her gang kidnap a woman, hang her upside down, set cars on fire, shoot flares into the sea, toy with a corpse, get stoned and drink booze. It’s an all out crime party that ends with RiRi covered in blood lying in a trunk of cash.

If you haven’t seen the video (you have) watch it below and check out all our Bitch Better Have My Money articles – the cult film references, the best fashion looks and an interview with the Desi sidekick that Rihanna found on Instagram.